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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate drama of middle-class American life.
Spanning the last forty years of the 20th century, this is a huge family drama focusing on the elderly parents and three grown children in a midwestern family. To label these characters as dysfunctional does not do justice to their uniquenesses or to the reader's ability to identify with them. Their difficulties as a family arise because the family dynamics require them...
Published on 28 Sep 2003 by Mary Whipple

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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars look, Mom, no hands!!
I finally came around to reading this much hyped book and at first I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I found it was written with a real verve and flair. However, about three quarters of the way through I had to give up, because I simply gave up caring for the characters and what happened to them. Also, the flair and verve I had so admired initially became...
Published on 17 May 2009 by N. Byrne


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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intimate drama of middle-class American life., 28 Sep 2003
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
Spanning the last forty years of the 20th century, this is a huge family drama focusing on the elderly parents and three grown children in a midwestern family. To label these characters as dysfunctional does not do justice to their uniquenesses or to the reader's ability to identify with them. Their difficulties as a family arise because the family dynamics require them to hurt each other if they are to be true to themselves. When Enid decides that the whole family must come home to St. Jude's for "one last family Christmas," the stage is set for an emotional family reunion which results in many "corrections."
Enid, the mother, while not assertive in a traditional sense, cleverly wields the age-old guilt ploy to get her own way. Albert, the father, suffers from Parkinson's-induced dementia and creates enormous strains on the rest of the family's emotional resources. Each of the children, now adult and living away from home, brings to the reunion the baggage of the past and the insights obtained independent of the family.
Seven years in the making, this novel is an intimate, domestic drama, smoothly incorporating themes which question who we are, what we owe our parents, how we become who we are, and where we are going. Franzen's pointed observations about contemporary life--as revealed by upscale restaurants, the "green movement," cruise ship behavior, use of the internet for fund-raising, dispensation of "happy pills," nursing homes, and even the crassness of Christmas--enliven the plot as it spirals around and through time and the lives of the five characters. Albert's decline, told in part from his point of view, is particularly heart-breaking. This book offers a stunning and intimate view of a middle-class American family, its values, and its dreams, all presented with wit, sensitivity, and power. Mary Whipple
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58 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Up There with the Best, 4 Jan 2003
By 
Paul Turner - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
I came to the pc this Friday evening, midnight thirty, to look up more Franzen writing, having just finished The Corrections. If you are reading this, I beg you to disregard some of the downbeat reviews submitted by other readers and believe the general acclaim that has greeted this wonderful book. I rate this huge, wonderful, funny, touching, involving novel right up there with other recent great reads, from Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin to Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. It is, as intelligent reviewers have commented, so distinctive that any comparisons risk being misleading, but it's not a million miles off the mark to say that there is a whiff of Catch 22 in the author's virtuoso handling of his material. As I experienced it, this is a book, like all great novels, about the extraordinary canvas of human life. It focuses on an ageing couple - their twilight years sympathetically, sometimes hilariously, portrayed - and on the three startlingly different adults who were once there children (and whom the mother wants to reunite for one last Christmas together in the family home). Over the course of a gloriously big book that is not a page too long, Franzen interleaves the stories of his characters with a sureness of touch that reminded me of Saul Bellow and Humboldt's Gift: the narrative at any given time is so involving that you only realise when a storyline is resumed that you actually left a situation many pages back in order to focus on another situation that has completely absorbed you... Ultimately, no theme is left unresolved in this hugely rewarding modern symphony of a novel. The prose is a joy - never a need to reread a single poorly formed sentence in over 600 pages (only an urge to reread some of the most insightful and wonderfully observed paragraphs in recent fiction); the dialogue and characterisation are terrific; the themes relevant to anyone who calls himself/herself a human being. Tremendous. Do yourself a favour and read it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dysfunctional Family Portrait, 9 Feb 2012
By 
Syriat - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
The Corrections is a long book. Over 600 pages. Its a big book on a small scale, telling the story of a very dysfunctional American family, that has been highly praised and rewarded. The Lamberts, all five of them with two grandchildren bear the usual scars of growing up and growing apart and as the father of the family gradually declines throughout the book those scars come to the fore and those people.

Some may dismiss this as pretentious and a lot of fuss about nothing, others an absolute drag. However, I enjoyed it for the most part. It did drag and the promised humour wasn't quite as strong as I was led to believe. Yes its quite darkly funny at times, in particular when describing Chip (youngest son, totally feckless) and his decline. You don't really empathise with the characters though. Yes, they are believable and well written. But they are too flawed and almost too clichéd to really love. However, the story as a whole works and the portrait of the family is enjoyable and does leaving you drawing your own comparison.
Don't expect it to be the life changing read the critics promise. But if you are prepared for a long read then The Corrections is a good book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed it ... second time round!, 15 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
As you can tell from all the previous reviews this is a real 'love it' or 'hate it' type book. It was bought for me as a gift quite a few years ago (probably when it was first out) and I, like many others, started it, got a few pages in, didn't 'connect' with it so put it on the bookshelf for the next couple of years and let it just quietly gather dust...

It caught my eye a few months back (it winked at me as I passed the shelf!) so I thought I'd give it another go. This time, and I really don't know why, I was completely drawn in. Once I started I couldn't put it down. Its the most wonderful beautifully well written story of an 'average-ish' family and their relationships with each other. There are moments in it that made me incredibly sad and others that made me laugh out loud. There are parts that remind me a lot of my family 'set up' (not all the way through - but there are glimpses that I think a lot of us can identify with). It really captures how the family dynamic changes as we age and how we deal with the mistakes (and choices) we make in our life. The characters just grow and grow as the book progresses and after I'd finished I sat quietly for a very long time digesting it and its impact on me. I discussed it with family and friends : I wanted to know how they would feel if, in a few years, they/we ended up like Alfred and Enid. I do rather love books like this. Ones that stay with you for a long while after you've finished them.

So yes, 9 years or so had lapsed since I first picked the book up and an awful lot had change in 'my' life in that time. Maybe second time round I really was more in tune with it. Whatever it was I completely loved it. Its brilliantly written and I know I will definitely read it again at some point. Maybe when I'm Alfred's age just to see what effect if has on me then. So for those that pick it up and struggle to start with it put it down for a while and try again after a few years. It'll be worth it.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing stuff, 22 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Corrections (Hardcover)
I was enormously impressed by this novel. Franzen has crafted a strong, deep ,tightly woven tale of a family, encompassing themes such as love,death and aging, sex, money and much more besides.
It succeeds in being both a novel of the heart and the head. There are plenty of ideas in this book but Franzen doesnt let the ideas and themes obscure the characters in the book, of which there are several, all realised in clear detail. Apparently the author wrote parts of this novel in the dark to avoid cliche and if so his technique certainly worked. The writing is witty, loaded with insights into our routine and habits: in short the way we live our lives.
Franzen tackles a variety of subjects with aplomb. He can be humorous, touching, sexy, informative, sad, farcical, but is always, always, honest. And, as he gropes around the edges of the story, riffing on the things that interest and intrigue him, he always reins evrything in for the greater good of the structure of the novel.
A book which,like so much good literature, shows you the way the world works, in a way you always knew but never realised you really did until you were told.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius, 10 Feb 2006
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
While I often struggle to remember names of people I've just met, I remember the names of all the Lamberts a few years after reading the book and I'm sure I'll still remember them in another twenty years. Frantzen's characterisations are so sensitively and brilliantly observed that by the time I finished the book, I felt like a friend of the family. Sitting in awe at the rare ability of the author, I felt grateful for the insight into the thoughts and minds of each of the five very different characters which were so vivid that reading this book felt as close to mind-reading as I will ever get. The Corrections is the work of a genius and I can think of few authors capable of writing at this level.

It's a hard read and yes, in places it can be uncomfortable and occasionally, briefly laborious, but that's part of life and this book couldn't be more lifelike. Read and persist with this book and you will be rewarded for keeping it real. At the end, I'm sure you'll love even those bits you found to be a chore and realise that no words were used without purpose and which didn't add to the overall effect of this book, which is haunting and incredible. Loved it!
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth checking out, 3 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Corrections (Hardcover)
'The Corrections' is a sophisticated and enjoyable family saga charting the lives, loves, successes and failures of the Lambert family. It is a very ambitious book which attempts to address a whole host of modern issues as well as provide a complex portrait of human relationships and motivations.
The book is very strong on characterisation, each family member is sufficiently complex to make the reader feel differing emotions towards them at different points in the book. Franzen is very good at describing the emotions that drive his characters to behave and act in the (often cruel) way that they do.
The book contains some wonderful prose, is often very funny, and is thoroughly unsentimental in its portrayal of both families and the world in which we live. Franzen also has interesting things to say about materialism and consumerism, and how deeply engrained in society these values have become.
My main criticism would be that the book is rather long and sags somewhat in the middle, sometimes Franzens descriptions become overelaborate and you start to want the story to move a bit faster.
However, the book is well worth sticking with as the last 150 pages or so are the best, and I found the ending moving and satisfying. If you can overlook the hype and judge the book on its own merits, there is a lot to admire here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking reads., 10 May 2013
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This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
I loved reading this fast despite its thickness! Drags a tiny bit in the middle, but very good characterisation, and a warmth for all the characters. Loved the sibling relationships. Reminded me a bit of Tales of the City but mostly hetero!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Chekhov to Hiaasen, 17 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
The Corrections may be a one-family story that emanates from small-town St Jude in the American mid-West, but it gives us universal observations of family behaviour that span the Western World. It's a very simple story - how a typical clean-cut family with two sons and a daughter caves in on itself under the pressures of aging, career failure, missed opportunities, personal short-comings and long-held resentments. The structure is equally simple - 6 chapters spanning over 600 pages, that stretch backwards and forwards through the lives of Al and Enid Lambert and their children in the last half of the twentieth century. Albert Lambert (sounds like a cartoon character?) grew up at a time when a man had his responsibilities, knew his place, kept his head down and served his family by earning money rather than spending time or affection on them. The old values, then, and the reasons why there is a chasm between himself and the grown up children Gary, Chip and Denise - and indeed his wife. The opening and one of the middle chapters focus on Mom & Dad, and there are separate chapters on each of the off-spring, all leading-up to the final chapter - a symbolic reassembly of all five of them back at the family home for one last Christmas. A Wonderful Life, it ain't. They may all get their own chapters, but in truth everyone of them is on every page, in the thoughts, or shaping the actions of the chapter subject. Five characters and ten permutations of relationships - Al and Enid, each of them with each of their children, and all of the children with each other. So lots to get through. Perhaps the whole book is over-written (in terms of word-count if not word-play) but there are is quite a variety of pace, from the stopped-clock detail of the opening scene (the gasped-breath world of Al) to the heart-pounding, shaky camera action of Chip's attempt to flee revolutionary Lithuania, and the tone swings from Chekhov to Hiaasen with varying degrees of success. I finished the book not really knowing what any of the characters looked like, but I still felt I knew them , because they are in every family, they're round your dinner table at Christmas, they're in your family photo album, they're in your memories, and they may even be on your mirror.
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43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars look, Mom, no hands!!, 17 May 2009
By 
N. Byrne (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
I finally came around to reading this much hyped book and at first I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I found it was written with a real verve and flair. However, about three quarters of the way through I had to give up, because I simply gave up caring for the characters and what happened to them. Also, the flair and verve I had so admired initially became more like showing off. Obviously, Franzen has some talent for writing, but as the novel dragged on and nothing much happened it began to read like one big exercise in writing brio, an almost childish exclamation from Franzen to the literary world at how brilliantly he can write. Sure, for all the clever similes and tragi-comic spirals, it couldn't disguise the fact that these characters just weren't very interesting, only spoiled and self absorbed, which is fine in small doses but hard to make a novel out of when its impossible to like any of them, no matter how flawed and 'human' they're supposed to be.

I think Franzen has succeeded in dazzling many readers and critics of this novel with his showy writing so that they cannot see how vapid and uninteresting this novel really is.
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