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Freedom Hardcover – 23 Sep 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 252 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 23 Sep 2010
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 570 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; First Printing edition (23 Sept. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269754
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.5 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (252 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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

This book has been printed with two different dust jackets--one black, one white. Amazon.co.uk is unable to accept requests for a specific cover. The various covers will be assigned to orders at random.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A story about a fairly average middle class american family told over a long timeline - normally this would be enough for me to not bother with a book. However, I have read other books by Jonathan Franzen and enjoyed them, so I gave this a go.

The story revolves around a couple called Patty and Walter. The point of view and timeline jump about, to tell the story from all sorts of angles. Over the course of the book you develop a deep understanding for the characters, which most modern novels can not get near to. You could argue that you get to know the characters better than they know themselves because you find out what made them how they are and how other people see them.

There are a few themes that run through the story, the most intriguing one for me being how relationships develop over time and whether animal attraction is more important than suitability of partners. It's hard to say much more without spoilers but there is a lot of meaning under the surface of this book.

This is a very long book, which gives space to really develop the lead characters and show them age over time. I would say that there are some bits of the book that feel a bit flabby and could benefit from being trimmed down. For instance, there are quite a lot about preservation of mountain birds in the middle, which does not really add anything to the story and may have been better suited to a magazine article rather than add extra pages to a book that is already quite hefty.

That little moan aside, the book is great. It is a very satisying story. Everyone in it is fully rounded and three dimensional and by the end I really cared what happened to them.
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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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