From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a darkly comedic novel about family.
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 neighbor, 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, total 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 college best friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” 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 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.
©2010 Jonathan Franzen (P)2010 Macmillan Audio
"The Great American Novel." (Esquire)
"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)
“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)
The most over-rated novel in many years. Annoying, cynical, smarter-than-thou, full of cheapshots. The characters have zero appeal. I might have tolerated the book a slight bit better had it not been for the fact that it was read by The World's Worst Narrator. If he doesn't annoy you at first, I guarantee he will! Listening to him after awhile sounded and felt like fingers on a blackboard. Full Disclosure: Didn't get beyond twentysome chapters but my days have lifted considerably since I stopped listening.
I made it most of the way through Part One of this three part audiobook. The narrator was a little whiny, but I don't blame him because the book is VERY whiny. After 8 hours I have no idea what this book is about. It seems to be telling the story of a woman who shares my age, my ethnicity, my social standing, much of my history, so if I found it totally unappealing, for whom was this massive volume written? Dull dull dull. The writing is a snorefest and the characters would be better off joining a suicide cult or going to work for the GOP. Anything would be interesting. Maybe Audible will refuse this review because I didn't finish the book but nobody should be compelled to make that sacrifice. They should be happy I didn't ask for my credit back.
How stupid, really. On and on and on. The first chapter is magical, spare and transcendent with not a word out of place. I recalled reading this select piece as a short story back in 2009 in The New Yorker as "Good Neighbors" and loved it then as now. What follows is 20-hours of pointless and relentless nattering of men getting in touch with their real feelings and "finding themselves". Shut up already. And the over-baked political and social justice commentary that infuses the novel everywhere is so over-done it comes across as pantomime, almost The Colbert Report for liberals. [I'm a committed tree-hugger and could not stand it myself]. Content-wise either society in general has spent so much time these past 10 years exposing the dark side of previously private lives; or maybe my own life has become so particularly disturbing that the twisted family issues that were so shocking back in The Corrections here just seem par for the course. Throw in as extra bonuses an ending that out of nowhere gives minor and tiny characters full wrap-up appearances; a bizarre caricature of a south eastern Indian young woman and a tidy everything-wrapped-up-in-a-bow ending. I found the narration and sound perfectly fine. Go ahead and buy Freedom, it is worth reading just to be able to talk about it. At the end though you will be rooting for Bobby the killer cat rather than the songbirds. I certainly was.
This novel is full of stereotypical people, boring, predictable and difficult to relate to or like.
The reader is a good match, bad.
If it weren't for Audible I'd never get any reading done.
There are beautiful and heartbreaking passages in this novel, but far too many wasted pages (or wasted listening hours) on cardboard characters in banal situations. The section on the main characters' college years rang true, but I couldn't for one minute believe the passages about their son, or the young Indian woman, or the quixotic career one of them takes up about 2/3 through. The adulation this book is getting seems well out of proportion.
The reader deserves special criticism for the sing-song, whiny voice he adopts, especially when in the voice of the female lead.
The last book I listened to was "The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet.", so I'm not writing this because I like happy endings. Although this novel is written using contemporary characters and issues, it was just a story about some people and their problems. Nothing new here, wealthy people have issues, ambitious people get in over their heads, all kinds of people have affairs and disappointing relationships. Wendy Wasserstein's "Elements of Style" was a much better book about the curse of wealth, and Ruth Ozeki's "All Over Creation" hit current issues with better insight than Franzen.
Sorry, but this one tries too hard (24 hours worth!) to be the great American novel, and it shows.
This is the most honest book I have read in years! I loved it. I know a lot of the characters were not nice people but they were real, no sugar coating, just the real deal.The narration was great, story line engaging, excellent characters. This is one of my favorites.
I agree wholeheartedly with other reviewers who are conflicted between the good writing but the unsympathetic characters. For the most part an entirely fulfilling book, but at many times not enjoyable, due to characters that were hard to spend time with.
The narration was very enthusiastic and engaging, however towards the middle I began to wonder if it was effecting my interpretation of the characters. Each is highly flawed, but also each has redeeming qualities; I wonder if I was reading the book if I would have perceived their subtleties better.
I am no prude, but the the amount of graphic sex was more than I needed. The story was wonderful and it made me think of political ideals, conservation and how a person is affected by all experiences in their lives. The characters were well developed and changed before my eyes. I enjoyed the book. I didn't think it dragged at all.
Freedom is amusing. Franzen captures the time, the mood and the causes well. The story, however, didn't need to meander down every scene in the 1970's, 80's, 90's and turn of the millennium. Brutal editing would have improved the tale. Still, it is worth a listen.
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