Freedom Paperback – 23 Mar 2017
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‘Stupendous, magnificent, unforgettable, witty and rich. A great American novel is unmistakably what Freedom is’ Spectator
‘A masterpiece. Franzen skewers the particularity of modern life and love like no one else. If you are free to live as you choose, he asks, who else can you blame when it goes wrong?’ Daily Telegraph
‘Writing in prose that dazzles, Franzen has now written the two novels that best define modern America’ Independent on Sunday
‘Extraordinary … it is first troubling, then addictive – and then, with mounting satisfaction, convinces you this is simply on a different plane from other contemporary fiction’ Guardian
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.
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Top customer reviews
It would be easy to dislike Patty but I didn't. She's an innocent who, when she does bad things, does them not out of malice but almost accidentally. Her one great gift, as a basketball player, is taken from her by injury. Mild-mannered Walter, meanwhile, with his endless concerns for the environment and zero-population growth, matures into a man nearly burned alive by anger.
At first I found the prose style annoying, with its very long, rambling, unstructured sentences (I found one that went on for two pages), but I got used to it after a while and it ceased to bother me. The chapters are also long, each centred on one member of the small group of main characters, some of them a sort of autobiography written by Patty, which will come back to bite her in the end.
This is a profoundly sad book: people are unhappy; government is corrupt; big business amoral and self-seeking. The fact that it manages to end on a note of hope is a small blessing. Franzen's message may be the same as Forster's in Howard's End -- that what matters is personal relations and being kind to each other.
Losing interest was not a problem with this book. I started reading Freedom on Dec 13th and finished it on Feb 6th and I loved every page of it. The writing is a pleasure, the characters and plot truly engaging. On those days that I wasn't able to get a chance to read I would reflect on the what I had read so far. Each time I picked up the book after a period of absence it was like getting caught up with a good friend or family member that I hadn't seen in a while. The main characters might be flawed, but they are all essentially good people, trying to live their lifes as best they can, and as such I cared about them and their happinesses, and in the process they made me think about who I am and how I am trying to live my life.
For a novel, this is quite some achievement and I am glad I was able to savour it over such a long period.
Once again Franzen writes beautifully, trying to reflect the American dream as lived by a 'typical' American family where dysfunction is the norm and friction is not too far from the surface.
Once again we have multiple perspectives and story arcs that intertwine to give us a voyage through their lives. It's hard to say that the characters are likeable but some of the scenarios would be familiar to most people with teenage (or older) children and Franzen is a master of reflecting the nuances of familial relationships. He can also be bitingly witty at times, so much so that the situations become a form of satire.
The key problems for me were in the similarities of the family breakdown between this and The Corrections, I felt that I probably didn't need to read both books and having done so would have said that the earlier novel has more truth, wisdom and humour.
All this said it's still a remarkable piece of writing, perhaps laboured in places and with its conscience worn like a badge of honour but still head and shoulders above most of the novels I'll probably read this year.
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