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Praise for Purity
“Franzen may well now be the best American novelist. He has certainly become our most public one, not because he commands Oprah's interest and is a sovereign presence on the best-seller list-though neither should be discounted-but because, like the great novelists of the past, he convinces us that his vision unmasks the world in which we actually live . . . A good writer will make an effort to purge his prose of clichés. But it takes genius to reanimate them in all their original power and meaning.”
—Sam Tanenhaus, The New Republic
“Mr. Franzen's most fleet-footed, least self-conscious and most intimate novel yet . . . The stories of the characters in Purity zip forward aggressively in time, but open inward, burrowing into their psyches and underscoring what seems like Mr. Franzen's determination to build on the steps he took in Freedom to create people capable of change, perhaps even transcendence . . . Mr. Franzen adroitly dovetails these story lines, using large dollops of Dickensian coincidence and multiple plot twists to construct suspense and to entertain . . . Mr. Franzen has added a new octave to his voice.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“Franzen's prose is alive with intelligence . . . the ride is exhilarating.”
—Caleb Crain, The Atlantic
“Brilliant, captivating, unbearable [and] hilarious.”
—Emma Brockes, The Guardian
“Purity comes five years after Freedom and 14 years after The Corrections. Both earlier novels were called masterpieces of American fiction; to say the same of Purity might be true but misses the point. Magisterial sweep is now just what Franzen does, and his new novel appears . . . as a simple, enjoyable reminder of his sharp-eyed presence.”
—Radhika Jones, Time
“[Purity is] so funny, so sage and above all so incandescently intelligent, there's never a moment you wish you were reading something else. Franzen still seems on every page of this book like America's most significant working novelist.”
—Charles Finch The Chicago Tribune
“Franzen’s best book.”
—Christopher Sorrentino, Bookforum
“Purity's plot is a beautiful arabesque . . Subplots are doubled and trebled. But the remarkable thing is that the novel does not seem convoluted when you're reading it; to an astonishing degree, the melodramatic swoops of the plot are well orchestrated and thrilling.”
—Elaine Blair, Harper's
“[Purity displays] fierce writing, and it does what fiction is supposed to, forcing us to peel back the surfaces, to see how love can turn to desolation, how we are betrayed by what we believe. It is the most human of dilemmas, with which we all must come to terms . . . It remains compelling to read Franzen confront his demons, which are not just his but everyone's.”
— David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
“Probably no one alive is a better novelist than Jonathan Franzen . . . Purity is masterfully crafted, plangently insightful, a testament to the continued power of the realist tradition to address the complexities of modern life.”
— Brian Phillips, Grantland
“Purity demonstrates Franzen's ingenious plotting, his ability to steer the chaos of real life toward moments that feel utterly surprising yet inevitable . . . In Purity Franzen writes with a perfectly balanced fluency . . . From its tossed-off observations . . . to its thoughtful reflections on the moral compromises of journalism, Purity offers a constantly provocative series of insights.”
— Ron Charles, The Washington Post
“As in all Franzen's novels, and now so very powerfully in Purity, it is the history of his players that matters. Franzen's exhaustive exploration of their motives, charted oftentimes over decades so as to deliver us to this moment when the plot turns on the past in the seemingly smallest of ways, is what makes him such a fine writer, and his books important. He is a fastidious portrait artist and an epic muralist at once.”
—Bret Lott, The Boston Globe
“Takes on the big issues of our era . . . Decades from now, when we want a snapshot of 2015, we’ll turn to Purity.”
—Heather Mallick, The Toronto Star
“This century’s chronicler of modern American manners . . . has outdone himself again.” —Elle“Not to be missed.”
—Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today
“Purity is a novel of plenitude and panorama . . . [Its sprawl] can suggest a sort of openness and can have a strange, insistent way of pulling us in, holding our attention . . . Often brilliantly funny . . . This is a novel of secrets, manipulations and lies.”
—Colm Toibin, The New York Times Book Review
“As with all of Franzen's fiction, there is much to admire in Purity, not least what reviewer David Gates once termed 'microfelicities,' the expertly calibrated turns of phrase and pleasingly digressive cultural references and riffs around every corner. Like his last two novels, Purity bends time, easing in and out of characters' pasts and presents until, before you know it, the disparate pieces of a life suddenly fit.”
—Leigh Haber, O Magazine
“[Franzen] knows exactly what we've come to expect from him, yet with Purity, imperfect and impolite but, yes, ambitious and vital, he proves us all wrong.”
— Richard Dorment, Esquire
“Purity is the best book the prodigiously talented novelist has written—funnier, looser, with more care for his characters . . . Purity offers the sense of ease of a virtuoso giving every appearance of enjoying himself.”
—Yvonne Zipp, The Christian Science Monitor
“A twisty but controlled epic that merges large and small concerns: loose nukes and absent parents, government surveillance and bad sex, gory murder and fine art . . . [Franzen is] admirably determined to think big and write well about our darkest emotional corners. [Purity is] an expansive, brainy, yet inviting novel that leaves few foibles unexplored.”
“Franzen reveals moments of absolute genius. The cathartic power of tennis; the debilitating effects of jealousy; the fickle, fleeting nature of fame; and the slow death of youthful idealism are all beautifully captured.”
—Sally Bissell, Library Journal
“Franzen has created a spectacularly engrossing and provocative twenty-first-century improvisation on Charles Dickens' masterpiece, Great Expectations . . . Purity will be one of the most talked about books of the season.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist
An Amazon Best Book of September 2015: Purity takes many forms in Franzen’s new novel—to begin with, it is the name of the book’s title character. “Pip,” as she is more commonly known, is not fond of her given name, and when we first meet her she is living in a crowded Oakland house under the burden of colossal college debt. Pip soon becomes involved in “The Sunlight Project,” a WikiLeaks-style group that seeks to uncover secrets and expose them on the web. Run by Andreas Wolf, a charismatic man of renown, who grew up in socialist East Germany, the Sunlight Project becomes the jumping-off point of discovery for Pip, as well as a starting line for Franzen to jump back in time and explore the backgrounds of his primary and secondary characters. There is a point in the book where readers may wonder where this is all headed; but the thoughtfulness and polish of Franzen’s prose should reassure that the journey isn’t in vain. It eventually becomes clear that nearly every character is chasing purity in some form—whether pursuing Pip herself or some platonic ideal—and Franzen ties up the ends in a way that is clean and satisfying but will have you thinking about Purity long after you have finished the book. --Chris Schluep--This text refers to the digital edition.
- ASIN : B00UWF75RE
- Publisher : Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 1, 2015)
- Publication date : September 1, 2015
- Language : English
- File size : 1658 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 577 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #178,324 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Oh, and of course, the novel is BIG. Nearly 600 pages, to be exact. In a nod to Dickens, there are multiple plot lines, coincidences, and hold-on-to-your-seat dramatic twists. But make no mistake, while Franzen gives a nod to Dickens, this book cannot be construed as a homage to him.
The book is summarized by its title: purity. On the surface, Purity is the birth-name of Pip. But is there such a thing as purity? Can there truly be pure motives, pure ideologies, pure goodness, pure connections, pure love? In this Franzenian universe, the answer seems to be “no.” Everything is tainted by a “moral hazard” (a term Pip learns in economics).
Here we meet characters who are struggling with their own definition of “good”: Pip-the-pure…Andreas, a Snowden (or more aptly, Assange) leaker from East Germany (and later Bolivia) who is ostentatiously for transparency and yet commits a felonious deed for reasons that others might deem as pure…Anabel who forsakes “blood-tainted” family money to live a chaste-like, pure life of poverty…Tom, Anabel’s ex-husband, a muckraker journalist who is a good, yet pliable person and isn’t, by any means, ALL good.
Woven into this tapestry are Important Themes: misguided state ideologies and lack of openness, the vacuity of some experimental films, the failings of feminism, the crush of student debt, the eternal quest for power and connection, the false lure of cults and social media, the narcissism of the famous, and all too often, the damage created by suffocating and often too eccentric parenting. (Parents don’t fare too well in Franzen’s world).
One friend described this book as “flawless” and it’s not quite that; some of Franzen’s romantic dialogue (between Pip and Andreas, for example) made me groan just a bit and some of his female characters skirt a little too close to comfort with being well-written stereotypes (crazy moms, women who want to discuss their feelings ad nauseum, women who only feel lascivious during certain moon cycles). Then again, the men don’t come out smelling like roses either: they are often testosterone-driven, narcissistic, love-phobic.
These quibbles aside, this theme-driven book kept me engrossed well into the night, in ways that his last book, Freedom, did not. Ultimately, Purity is a paradox: an incredibly hopeful book about the folly of moral absolutism, the bequeathing of a broken world and the impossibility of being good.
The length of this book makes you want to scream: enough!!! The plot is also remarkably contrived to the point of it being almost like a fairy tale. The length of the book and the good writing in it may numb the reader to this however: how contrived the plot is. Also, like many writers he has long
periods of short dialogue in which I lost track of who was speaking. We don't want "he said" or "she said" every line but, really, remember that the reader hasn't lived with your characters for five years. In playwriting there's something they used to call The Wasserman Test (Was it named after Dale Wasserman of Man of La Mancha fame? I don't know.) But what you do is place an index card over the characters names on a page and see if you can tell who's speaking simply be reading the dialogue. Besides the difference of what they say, it shows how characters in good plays differ in
how they say it. Franzen fails the Wasserman test continually. I hope he'll put a few more "he said"s and "she said"s into his next book. I liked The Corrections a lot. This book was disappointing.
Top reviews from other countries
It is pretty well written and often captivating and thought provoking at times, though it does seem to go a little deep to the point where it feels like a slog to get through those heavy sections... maybe that says more about me than the book though!
The book itself is a nice read most of the time but does have some somewhat implausible characters resulting in the plot becoming unusual and almost unbelievable at times. Yes, I am aware it is a work of fiction, I just like that fiction to have some semblance in reality which I think helps to keeps me on the hook.
The characters are at times over the top but still feel unfulfilling when it comes to depth and development, leaving a feeling that a lighter touch might sometimes be better when getting into the more intense psychological nature of the protagonists, while other characters could do with more than a very basic, cursory outline. The story is alluring until midway through when the key plot twist is revealed, in my opinion, a little too early... from there, the story drifts into monotonous, surface scratching insights which combined with a very predictable chain of events mean that the end of the book draws to a lackluster finish. I'm not sure whether the quality of the writing has suffered in comparison to his other books, or whether the attempt at something different has led to a decent book, but something which could have been a lot better.
All in all an enjoyable book and I would recommend it, but it's not on the same level as Freedom or The Corrections... which I would highly recommend reading if you enjoyed this book or if you haven't read it yet but are looking for something similar. Unrelatable and stereotyped characters combined with a story with not so much purpose as it has brashness, make it a far cry from his other works which resonated much more with me. Hopefully this will be a platform for Franzen to create more like this, but with a more fine tuned approach. Recommended!
Thanks for reading my review!
If you enjoyed "Freedom" you won't be disappointed with Purity. Its a brilliant read.