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Freedom [Hardcover]

Jonathan Franzen
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
Price: 20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

23 Sep 2010

The new novel from the author of The Corrections.

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul - the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbour who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter - environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, family man - she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz - outré rocker and Walter's old college friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to poor Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbour," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of too much liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's intensely realized characters, as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Printing edition (23 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269754
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Franzen was born in 1959 and graduated from Swarthmore College. He has lived in Boston, Spain, New York, Colorado Springs and Philadelphia. His other novels are 'The Twenty-Seventh City', 'Strong Motion', and 'The Corrections'. He is also the author of 'How To Be Alone', a collection of non-fiction, and 'The Discomfort Zone', a memoir. His fiction and non-fiction appear frequently in the 'New Yorker' and 'Harper's', and he was named one of the best American novelists under forty by 'Granta' and the 'New Yorker'. He lives in New York City.

Product Description

Review

"A lavishly entertaining account of a family at war with itself, and a brilliant dissection of the dissatisfactions and disappointments of contemporary American life... Compelling...Freedom, though frequently funny, is ultimately tender: its emotional currency is both the pain and the pleasure that that word implies . . . A rare pleasure, an irresistible invitation to binge-read . . . That it also grapples with a fundamental dilemma of modern middle-class America—namely: Is it really still OK to spend your life asserting your unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, when the rest of the world is in such a state?—is what makes it something wonderful. If Freedom doesn’t qualify as a Great American Novel for our time, then I don’t know what would . . . The reason to celebrate him is not that he is doing something new but that he is doing something old, presumed dead—and doing it brilliantly. Freedom bids for a place alongside the great achievements of his predecessors, not his contemporaries; it belongs on the same shelf as John Updike’s Rabbit, Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. It is the first Great American Novel of the post-Obama era." —Benjamin Secher, Daily Telegraph

"The ultimate way-we-live now novel" –Lev Grossman, Time

"Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Freedom, like his previous one, The Corrections, is a masterpiece of American fiction . . . Freedom is a still richer and deeper work—less glittering on its surface but more confident in its method. Like all great novels, Freedom does not just tell an engrossing story. It illuminates, through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew."—Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times Book Review
 
"A literary genius for our time . . . An extraordinary work . . . This is simply on a different plane from other contemporary fiction . . . Demands comparison rather with Saul Bellow’s Herzog. A modern classic, Freedom is the novel of the year, and the century." —Jonathan Jones, Guardian

"Forget about 3-D films, this is a 3-D novel. The characters are alive, past, present and future. Lives are truly lived . . . The great achievement of Freedom is to be an almost perfectly written novel, yet one which contrives not to be intimidating. It is both a page-turner and a work of art . . . It is bliss." --Sarah Sands, Evening Standard

"While modern publishing sometimes seems to prize whimsy over scope – nobody much expects a Great American Novel to materialize – Jonathan Franzen has gone and written two . . . Franzen’s characters are heartbreaking, his sentences breathtaking, and Freedom has the narrative grip of a cheap thriller." --Tim Walker, Independent

"Writing in prose that is at once visceral and lapidary, Mr. Franzen shows us how his characters strive to navigate a world of technological gadgetry and ever-shifting mores, how they struggle to balance the equation between their expectations of life and dull reality, their political ideals and mercenary personal urges. He proves himself as adept at adolescent comedy as he is at grown-up tragedy; as skilled at holding a mirror to the world his people inhabit day by dreary day as he is at limning their messy inner lives . . . Mr. Franzen has written his most deeply felt novel yet—a novel that turns out to be both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"[Freedom is] a work of total genius: a reminder both of why everyone got so excited about Franzen in the first place and of the undeniable magic—even today, in our digital end-times—of the old-timey literary novel . . . Few modern novelists rival Franzen in that primal skill of creating life, of tricking us into believing that a text-generated set of neural patterns, a purely abstract mind-event, is in fact a tangible human being that we can love, pity, hate, admire, and possibly even run into someday at the grocery store. His characters are so densely rendered—their mental lives sketched right down to the smallest cognitive micrograins—that they manage to bust through the art-reality threshold: They hit us in the same place that our friends and neighbors and classmates and lovers do. This is what makes Franzen’s books such special event." —Sam Anderson, New York Magazine

"One of those rare books that starts well and then takes off . . . a joy to read . . . With its all-encompassing world, its flawed heroes and its redemptive ending, Freedom has the sweep of a modern Paradise Lost." Economist

"The Great American Novel." —Esquire

"Epic." —Vanity Fair

"Exhilarating . . . Gripping . . . Moving . . . On a level with The Great Gatsby [and] Gone With the Wind." —Craig Seligman, Bloomberg

"Consuming and extraordinarily moving." —David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

"It’s refreshing to see a novelist who wants to engage the questions of our time in the tradition of 20th-century greats like John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis . . . [This] is a book you’ll still be thinking about long after you’ve finished reading it." —Patrick Condon,  Associated Press

"Freedom, his new book, and The Corrections, its predecessor, are at the same time engrossing sagas and scathing satires, and both books are funny, sad, cranky, revelatory, hugely ambitious, deeply human and, at times, truly disturbing. Together, they provide a striking and quite possibly enduring portrait of America in the years on either side of the turn of the 21st century . . . His writing is so gorgeous . . . Franzen is one of those exceptional writers whose works define an era and a generation, and his books demand to be read." —Harper Barnes, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"How we need the quiet, old-fashioned wisdom of Jonathan Franzen right now... The busy everyday life of the media distrusts what the best of fiction offers – complexity, thought, an exploration of the way great trends play out in small lives, with no sound-bite messages or easy conclusions. But for those who value that important still place, rare novels of the quality of Freedom, providing news that stays news, are something to be treasured." --Terence Blacker, Independent

From the Publisher

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Freedom to make mistakes ?? 22 Jan 2012
By P. G. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
On page 361 (of the hardback edition) is the sentence, "You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to f*** up your life in whatever way you want to."

If you take away the reference to being poor and apply the sentence to middle class America, it would seem to be at the centre of this complex, highly readable and deeply human novel. The book circles around this statement as three generations of the Berglund family, their friends and associates use their differing degrees of freedom to make choices which sometimes turn out for the good but more often than not f*** up their lives and those of their children and parents. Therein is an alternative voice of the book which questions this freedom in the face the demands of family, friends and society.

At its heart are three people from the middle generation, Patty (nee Emerson) and Walter Berglund and itinerant rock musician, Richard Katz. This trio form a sort of double love triangle in which each is, in different ways, loved by the other two. It is the tensions and energy thrown off by these relationships which power the narrative drive of the novel.

The opening section introduces the Berglunds living in a gentrifying neighbourhood in Minnesota where they seem to be the perfect liberal middle class couple, environmentally aware paragons of the community. In this section Frannzen succinctly and brilliantly portrays the tensions and desires seething below the surface of a seemingly blandly civilised community.

The facade of this suburban idyll is shattered by the Berglund's son becoming precociously sexually attached to Connie, daughter of the not quite so middle class Carol.
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131 of 149 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Good American Novel 26 Sep 2010
Format:Hardcover
Ten years after "The Corrections", Franzen finally comes up with the 562 pages of the follow-up, "Freedom". Such an evocative and multilayered, if unimaginative, title, shows that Franzen is up for the inevitable Great American Novel considerations. It's a lot like its predecessor in being a panoramic view of an average middle-class American family, here the Berglunds, moving back and forward in time to show how they became what they are, and each generation's interactions with the next. Then there's all the environmental stuff: the father of the Berglund family, Walter, is a conservationist nut, albeit one who's kind of in bed with the coal industry for a while: cue much soul-searching.

Over a third of the book is told from Walter's wife Patty's point of view, but she's writing in third person, on her therapist's suggestion. This gives rise to the one glaring technical fault with the book: her voice is exactly the same as Franzen's own omniscient narrator's voice: arch, amusedly distant, and so forth. That means it's still fun to read, but it's easy to forget, and hard to accept, that it's supposed to be Patty writing. There's also comment on the Iraq war, 9/11, lots of anti-consumerist stuff. There's a secondary character called Jonathon, a very conscientious young man, vocally anti-war - I'm guessing his first name's not accidental.

Another qualm I had about "Freedom" is the dialogue. Franzen is very good at dialogue, his dialogue is very contemporary, he's up with all the latest slang, but he goes too far in this direction in this book, for me. The dialogue is too quirky, too many little nuances and plays on words, people don't talk like that.

Overall, this book is a bit self-consciously engaging in all of the hot-button problems of our times.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding work. 13 Oct 2011
By J. Lee
Format:Paperback
I'm staggered by some of the mixed reviews on here. Maybe it's as a result of the hype surrounding this novel and the fact that it's been critically acclaimed. But cast that aside and what you'll find is a truly excellent piece of work.

Franzen manages to split the novel up into manageable chunks on each character and you really do get a good sense of where they've come from and what shapes their current world view. The relationships they share with each other are realistic (for the most part) and you'll find yourself wanting to know just a little bit more about each of them. True, some of the bits about the Grandparents could have been omitted but that's a minor gripe.

I found it to be a beautiful book. It never feels like a chore despite it's length and I whizzed through it in a week. I seriously wanted to read more and more which is high praise indeed. I'd urge anyone to read it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By Peter Lee TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
First things first, this is a novel, not a thriller. If you want to read something with an exciting plot, car chases, a mystery to solve, couples signing contracts to enjoy S&M sex, boys becoming wizards etc. then read no further - this is not the book for you. Like his superb novel "The Corrections", "Freedom" is a book about life, a story of people and their relationships, the ups and downs, and just like life it is often rather slow, sometimes a little dull, occasionally meandering.

It opens slowly, introducing the principal characters who we will follow through this long novel, and we read of their relationships, their friendships, their squabbles. It is a tough way to start in a sense, with a lot to take in, and by the end of this first section I was rather confused and underwhelmed, wondering if it was worth carrying on, but I persevered and it improves massively after this. As I said at the start, this is a long, slow story, covering a generation, and the writing is wonderful throughout.

If this is your first exposure to Frantzen's fiction I suggest you try "The Corrections" first, which is a little shorter and maybe a touch easier to read, but if you loved that book you'll love this one almost as much. The scope is breathtaking, and if you want to read a book that will take you a long time to read (it took me 3 days to read on holiday, which is a lot when you consider I was reading one book a day and starting another on each other day) but which you can savour, give this a go. It was the best thing I read on holiday this year. Fantastic stuff.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Franzen - Freedom
This is the first novel I have read by Franzen and I'm still not too sure whether or not I liked it. Read more
Published 8 days ago by molko
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read
Read this as part of my book club and loved it. Great characters and story telling. Can't wait to read more Jonathan Franzen.
Published 18 days ago by Hayley Ayers
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Couldn't put this down. Great read. One of those books where you find you miss the characters once you have finished it
Published 20 days ago by chippy
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, brilliant, but what am I going to read now....?
This book has got under my skin more than any I can remember reading in the recent past. I stumbled upon it by chance (inheriting the book left behind in a desk drawer when I... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Maya Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars Soaring High
A truly empathetic and insightful exploration of human relationships, I became addicted to the plight of these characters. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Laura Armitt
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect
Franzen is in my eyes a God of literature. He has created real characters complete with the human condition who do unpredictable things. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kay Shipway
1.0 out of 5 stars Painful
I have plodded half way through this much acclaimed novel, feeling sure that I would eventually find something thought-provoking or intriguing. Now, I've had it. I can't go on. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Claire A. Mkinsi
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
A wonderful, complex story of family and relationships. This is a big read, which is so well written that it is hard to put down. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lin Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars strong story and a compelling read
I had read The Corrections some years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it - I found this novel equally interesting and an excellent read : I just didn't like the central characters as... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Marc Mordey
5.0 out of 5 stars Hype-justifying
Clever, thoughtful, long but never feels like it. I want to keep reading about the Berglunds forever. A sequel please, Franzen?
Published 3 months ago by Fiona C Mckim
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