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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Freedom to make mistakes ??
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...
Published on 22 Jan. 2012 by P. G. Harris

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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. I think I can safely say that I enjoyed it but I'm not so sure I'd recommend it to any close friends. The story is essentially an encapsulated glance at three generations of modern day middle class America - reminding me slightly of Jeffrey Eugenides' work. It's the story...
Published 11 months ago by molko


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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Grows, 18 Sept. 2010
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 127,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." -- Matthew 24:11-13 (NKJV)

Freedom is the best new work of fiction I've read so far in 2010.

Freedom looks at the pain, responsibility, and potential involved in doing what appeals to you . . . regardless of the cost to anyone else. It's a worthwhile trip that manages to touch on a wide variety of ways that freedom pulls us in some directions and away from others. There's plenty of food for thought here, parceled out in bite-sized nuggets that you can chew on for weeks to come.

I was particularly impressed by the story's narrative structure. As the book opens, you see the Berglund family from the outside-in, the neighbors' view. Very quickly, one set of patterns are disrupted into a totally unexpected direction, drawing you irresistibly into wanting to know what happened.

In part the answer is that no one who isn't in a family really knows what goes on in a family. In another part, it's that people keep secrets from one another . . . particularly what they see as their own dark sides that they don't want others to know about.

From there, the story richly expands into four narratives, by narrators whose connections to others are rich and hard to grasp . . . even for themselves. It's only by overlaying the narratives that the whole picture begins to emerge. At times, you'll want to shake one character or another into doing something different, but of course you cannot do that with a fictional character any more easily than you can with most real persons.

Jonathan Franzen is a well-read author and a talented writer so his narrations dig deep into a variety of literary sources and methods to establish mood, color, imagery, emotion, psychology, physical sensations, and experiences that you'll find seem more than vaguely familiar . . . even when you cannot exactly place them. It's all subtly and humorously done, by an author who loves people and wants the best for them. There's a warm heart underneath all the Sturm und Drang that is what ultimately sets the book apart.

I was pleased to see that the book takes seriously such important subjects as marital love, friendship, sexual attraction, depression, sibling rivalries, parental mistakes, social responsibility, and serving one's fellow human. Rather than treating each topic as a single point of light, Mr. Franzen steps back to give you a globe's eye view from both without and from within. It's at once both terrifically subjective and wonderfully objective.

Be careful that you don't read any reviews that get into much of the story. You need to be surprised in places for this book to work its full magic on you.

Bravo, Mr. Franzen!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wow!-cool!, 30 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
Having loved The Corrections I bought Freedom,the hype about typos in the first release aside! for the first few pages I wondered why I had bothered, I didn't fancy the in depth psycho character analysis, but as I was on holiday I had time to drive on and soon fell in love with this book. It offers alot:-a good yarn, interesting perspectives on life, aging,our imperfections as people,children and parents and sometimes just how fast it all seems to go!you dont have to be good to be part of life and you dont have to be bad either.Sometimes it takes so long to figure out who you are it can be too late to enjoy what you have!they say you change when you reach 21 and that was true for me, they say you change at 40 but I say your eyes start to open to who you actually are and can be and this book confirms this to me.well worth the read!!Super!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slight disappointment?, 23 Sept. 2011
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
Having been a great fan of the Corrections, I found myself slightly disappointed with Freedom. Whilst Franzen continues to create very interesting characters and displays great virtuosity in his prose, there was something about the book that didn't quite work for me. Whilst it is difficult to put my finger on, I think I had two main criticisms - first, something of a lack of humorous passages (I remember the Corrections very positively in this respect), and second, his treatment of the environmental thread, whilst laudable in intent was not convincing for me. However, still superior to most material finding its way onto the bookshelves.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Novel, 21 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
It is quite interesting to note that 'Freedom' creates a very diverse set of reactions, going from quite negative to extremely positive. Although I understand the points of criticism of some of the readers, I can say that I really enjoyed the book. True, it takes a bit of while to get into it and it is a long read. But once you've adjusted to the writing style and the rythm of the book, it becomes a great reading experience. A great experience for people who love reading and who are ready to invest a bit of time to get submerged into a wonderfull story. I can really recommend the book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better then the borderline brilliant Corrections, 22 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
I'm very wary of prolific authors. I just don't believe someone can write a large number of pages year in and year out and still be writing something good. I simply don't think it's possible. So I'm much more comfortable with authors who only publish a new book once or twice a decade.

The advantage of an author taking forever is that a lot of thinking and re-thinking goes into it. The characters and the storylines start diverging from the original plan and a wonderful hint of the stop, start messiness of real life seeps into the writing. After years of work a large part of the author's world ends up being sucked into the book and we, the readers, get to see a detailed approximation of everything the author has been thinking about since their last book.

I'm more than happy to give writers the time to toy with their ideas, to begin in one direction for a few years, take a swerve in the opposite direction for another couple of years and then finally end up somewhere totally different and unconnected to where they began. The accumulation of ideas pasted on top of each other and squeezed in side by side makes for something much more rewarding and better than another generic rehash of the previous book. Perhaps the novel will be flawed but it will be much closer to a masterpiece than something written as the ninth book in only six years.

A good example of this is a superior chick-lit book called Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon. It was her first novel and it was clear she spent years conceiving, dreaming and thinking about it before she wrote it. And it resulted in a very good book with a convincing patina of interesting characters and plotlines. Then a year later she published her second book called Got You Back. I gave up about a hundred pages in as it was so average (not bad, just very average). Everything was so simplified and straightforward. The characters were void of life; just a name, a description of their clothes and a job title. The plot ran on tramlines without any deviation or quirk. It was as if the first book was a subtly detailed painting while the second book was a line drawing coloured in with gaudy felt tip pens. A lot, lot less thought and attention had gone into it resulting in a bland novel that failed to hold my attention.

Which brings us to Freedom which I believe took seven years to write (and published nine years after his previous novel). It's excellent. Clearly a lot of time was spent dreaming it up and the characters are all given plenty of life. Which is a good thing as it's not too big on plot. It's very much centred on the characters and how they rub up against each other while we spy on their endless introspective thinking. I have nothing insightful to say except that it held my attention rapt for almost every page, which isn't something I can say about The Corrections which dipped up and down wildly in how much I enjoyed it.

The book is self-consciously big and epic, although the story is small and domestic in scale. Having said that it does try to fit about twenty five years of a family's whole life into about five hundred plus pages. Perhaps the book is a little overlong but I can't really see any upside to taking anything out. Most of the pages earn their place.

There's an interesting hint of misogyny to much of the book. It's a thoughtful, considered misogyny and if your not easily offended it makes for very interesting subject matter.

The ending is quite abrupt by this books standards as we don't go into the minds of Walter and Patty and instead observe from a distance. As their feelings aren't explained in as much detail as we're used to it doesn't quite convince. I personally found it to be an odd way for the book to end without having their emotions and thinking spilled out all over the pages like it is for the proceeding five hundred plus pages.

Some people have complained that Patty's autobiography (over a very long chapter near the start and a short chapter near the end) is a major flaw because the writing style doesn't change from Franzen's own style. Perhaps it's a flaw but I can't say it bothered me in the slightest. In this case I prefer the idea of good writing over deliberately bad writing, as he succeeded in articulated her feelings and point of view with as much clarity as he could. I'm glad he didn't compromise and pretend to be inarticulate when he wrote for her.

I fully recommend the book without hesitation. It's maybe not a masterpiece, but it doesn't fall that far off from it.

I estimate that it took me sixteen hours to read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and one dimensional, 17 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
I really don't know how a book this poor got past both the editor's scissors and the publisher's quality assurance checks. It is very poor and very very long.

The characters are not well developed - Franzen simply tells us in the narrative what they are like, then doesn't bother to show us that by their actions or speech. All the characters therefore seem like one homogenised personality. I got the impression that they are all Franzen himself - he was simply telling us about all the things that he has done and he likes in a rather contrived manner.

Similarly the prose is uniformly dull. Franzen has adopted a light-hearted style which I imagine he thinks is amusing. It isn't though, it just comes across to me as smug. He tries to mix it up by including excerpts from one of the main character's diary. However he then adopts exactly the same style for these sections!

The book is about twice the size it should be and for no good reason. The plot goes into pointless cul de sacs with characters that really go nowhere - an example being the section that focuses on semi-formed unimportant characters making fudge and toffee at Christmas. Any decent editor would have removed the entire chapter - again I imagined that this is something that Franzen had done in his childhood and felt compelled to tell us about it even though it is irrelevant.

I really did read all of this - I hate not finishing something I start. However I would recommend that you don't waste your time on it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Franzen - Freedom, 15 April 2014
By 
molko (Surrey) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
This is the first novel I have read by Franzen and I'm still not too sure whether or not I liked it. I think I can safely say that I enjoyed it but I'm not so sure I'd recommend it to any close friends. The story is essentially an encapsulated glance at three generations of modern day middle class America - reminding me slightly of Jeffrey Eugenides' work. It's the story of the Berglunds and primarily the two middle generationers Patty and Walter who have two kids Jessica and Joey and a semi-famous college pal, Richard, who takes up a few chunks of the narrative too.
Other reviewers have commented here that the story is drawn out and slow, and they're right - at times the narrative seems to be meandering hopelessly but Franzen manages to somehow keep it all so readable.
Others have said that the characters are unlikeable - again this is true. I think it would be difficult to read and enjoy or agree with implicitly in regards to any of the characters, but Franzen is creating a reality here, a snap-shot of real life people with real life issues and that ethos is mirrored in his flawed characters.
Overall I think I'd say I enjoyed Freedom, but maybe would have awarded it 3.5 opposed to 3 if I could. If you're into this kind of literature then I doubt you'll be unimpressed for Franzen truly is a masterful storyteller - the pace is plodding but I still raced through it, the characters are humanly annoying and acerbically witty all at once. This is a solid, good read whilst not quite the masterpiece some would have you believed - I'd (half) recommend it all the same.
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4.0 out of 5 stars cheesy premise, 22 July 2013
This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
The prose is very readable, but the premise of the love triangle is cheesey and cliched. I gave up after 190 pages. The autobiography segment was frankly embarrasing. The rape angle seemed promising, but the book didn't warrant any more of my time...

Okay, so I was hasty judging thi novel. I was in a situation where I had little else to do but press on with this book and I've managed to finish it. Now I can give a more balance review. I initially gave this book a two star rating, but I've just bumped it up to a four. It ultimately has a very satisfactory ending, and is well worth continuing to read on. In fact, approximately five pages on from where I stopped, the first autobiography section ends and the book switches gear again.

The segment concerning Joey's business ventures makes for an interesting read, and the book seems to improve dramatically once the inevitable happens between Walter and Martha. I think maybe the flaw with this book is that Franzen is too convincing, whether that be embodying the prissiness of marital Walter, or the sexual immaturity of Joey, you would be forgiven for thinking that this voice was the author, if it wasn't for the maturity of other passages as a counterbalance. I do think there is a certain wooden formal awkwardness to Franzen's prose, and a certain degree of immaturity despite his obvious intelligence, as evinced in his descriptions of sex and the scatological scenes, but he weaves an agreeable narrative.

If you have the free time to invest, it's well worth a read. From what I recall of it's precursor, it's better than 'The Corrections'. If I were to pass further comment, I would have liked to see more of a resolution to the Joey/ Jenna situation and the implications on his relationship.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Something of a disappointment, 4 Feb. 2013
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
Given the author's success with The Corrections in 2001, which I enjoyed, this book was sure to be a best-seller and receive rave reviews, and it has done so. Having read so many positive reviews in the newspapers I decided to wait before reading it so as neither to be overly influenced or underwhelmed. I have just finished the book, paused to take breath and can now make a decision.
The first point is that it was not such a compelling read as its predecessor which I read with what the adverts call "page-turning interest".

There were periods when I fought to maintain an interest; I found these to be primarily when Patty, married to Walter Berglund, took centre scene. Unfortunately, much of the first couple of hundred pages are about Patty, including an excruciating section, written from her perspective at the suggestion of her therapist; we know this because of its title: "Mistakes Were Made: Autobiography of Patty Berglund by Patty Berglund (Composed at Her Therapist's Suggestion). It was a great pity that this therapist did not advise her to purge her devils by entering a Carmelite monastery.

After this sapping detour, which is repeated later on, the scenes return to the last decade, with chapters mostly taking the point of view of one of the earlier characters; however, the author seemed not to want to create wholly-believable narrators and to prefer his own voice to be heard.

The wit, verbal gymnastics and the rushing flow of the narrative that was so much part of the earlier novel have largely disappeared. Once I accepted this and stopped try to push the narrative along, I found more to enjoy in the novel. Unfortunately, the preface to the novel adopts this earlier style and, whilst it may demonstrate the author's power and ability to wrong-foot the reader in this way, it did not add to this reader's enjoyment of the work. Similarly, towards the end of the book, the author indulges in a page-long sentence.

It is the character of Walter who seeks to take the centre stage in the latter part of the novel; he has become a conservationist who wrestles with the problems of environmental protection. Whilst the tone adopted might be appropriate for an American audience, the coverage of the topic in the UK media means that some of the arguments presented sound somewhat naive. Joey, the Berglund's son, and his wife, Connie, are almost peripheral to the onward momentum of the novel, and my analyst can undoubtedly tell me why I found the scene of Joey, in Argentina, searching for a lost wedding ring, so funny.

Above all, it is the interaction between Patty, Walter and the latter's ex-room-mate, Richard, on which the novel succeeds or fails. In the end, a disappointment but I look forward to the next novel by Franzen which might be less "clever" and, even, slightly shorter?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good, just not as good as it thinks it is, 19 July 2012
This review is from: Freedom (Paperback)
As the author of humble thrillers, I am occasionally introduced to people at parties and told that I will get along with them because he/she is also writing a book. So I shake hands, say Hello and then they ask me a bit about writing. And when I tell them about the books I've produced, some of them perhaps nod sympathetically, before going on to tell me about their own in-progress masterpiece. You see their book isn't a bizarre murder mystery, or a spin on Faust, their book is about something. That fact can be seen in the gleam of their eyes - their novel will be an important masterpiece, one to be hailed across the ages and recognised as a cornerstone of Twenty-First century literature.

Of course at this point I nod a little sympathetically, as I've had versions of this spiel given to me at least a dozen times and never - to the best of my knowledge - has one of these oh so important books ever been finished, let alone published. (Maybe the type of person who likes to proclaim the greatness of their unfinished masterwork to random people at parties, is someone who likes talking more about their book than actually writing it). Now `Freedom' is definitely a book that's been published and is very successful, but the reason for this lengthy preamble is that it strikes me that Jonathan Franzen is an author who believes his own books are incredibly important.

Don't get me wrong, I liked `Freedom' a lot - it's touching, funny and has real depth. But it's also a book consciously aiming to be `The Great American Novel', and so there's a worthiness and slight pomposity throughout. (Even when mocking one of the central character's own worthiness, it can't help but have a certain po-faced quality.) This isn't just another collection of words bound in book form, this is the new Jonathan Franzen novel and as such we should all be grateful it is in our world.

It is of course an ambitious tale, ostensibly detailing the marriage of Patty and Walter, and their relationships with their kids, their extended families and - in particular - an old friend. Franzen shows a true mastery of his material, bouncing around in time, changing narrative point of views (although, for some reason the character of the daughter remains somewhat on the sidelines, which I think unbalances it a little) and has created passages of exquisite brilliance. There are points where it is very funny as well, but there is such an overlying seriousness, a self-consciousness that this is a book to be taken very seriously, which means that it is not as much fun as it could be.

Undeniably this is a good book, just not as good as it thinks it is.
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Freedom
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Paperback - 1 Sept. 2011)
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