The new novel from the author of The Corrections.
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 neighbour 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, 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 old college friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to poor Patty?
Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbour", 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 too much 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 HarperCollins Publishers Limited
I loved this book. I was completely engaged from beginning to end. It's light on plot and heavy on character study, which means it won't appeal to everyone. But I was quite engaged because there were so many levels of insight into these characters and the book seems to define the life and times of middle class americans born in the sixties.
Without David Ledoux's clever reading of this very long book, I wouldn't have finished it! I started to read the hardcover, since I recommended it to my book club, but found it wordy and to tell the truth, boring, but Ledoux's creative narrative flare for each character kept me entertained and engaged. Bravo David. I look forward to listening to more of his work.
I loved this book utterly. Franzen's characters have stayed with me in the weeks since I listened and the environmental issues explored in the novel really had an impact on me.
Often, even when I really enjoy a book I find it leaves my head immediately when I finished. This was an engaging and lasting experience for me, and I highly recommend it.
So I am a huge fan of Jonathan Franzen, I like the audio book format and the narrator (as other reviewers have noted) is excellent. However, this was an ordeal to finish. The book and the characters are angry, bitter and I didn't want to spend any more time with them. Give this a miss and try the corrections instead.
Johnathan Franzen managers to dig deep into the souls of the characters who are, on the surface, just ordinary folk. Like us all there are deep angers, fears and love which he slowly teases out and examines.
This book has been rated as the height of contemporary American literature. It is in fact a retelling of a fairly mundane sequence of events from the perspectives of several of the characters in the book. It is effectively a stream of consciousness approach but in truth it provides insight into minds so shallow, characters so one dimensional with diction so flat and lives so ordinary that I cannot truly understand what the author is trying to show - it is consciousness not worth streaming(!) It is to literature what porridge is to cuisine: bulky, filling but certainly not tasteful and definitely not art. What inspired Oprah to recommend this drivel to her countrymen is beyond me. I did manage to finish listening to the "saga" but kept asking myself "why?". The narrator is excellent.
The novel was highly recommended to me and finding it available as an audio book was a bonus as it would mean I could enjoy it on my commute. Unfortunately I was very disappointed with the narration by David Ledoux. The read really lacked emotional range and was read quite frustrating in the relentless whiney monotony of the narrators voice. But much worse was his depiction of non American accents. His portrayal of the twentysomething love interest "Lolitha" was breathtaking in its failure. His rendition was halfway between Ahhpu from the Simpsons and and an elderly Yogi, completely laughable and bizarrely offputting.
This was me best Audible experience yet. The narrator David Ledoux is a gem - I started to look for more stuff he has read after hearing Freedom. And what a book! Definately one of my alltime modern favourites! This was my first Franzen-experience and I just went directly to The Corrections after finishing this one. The characters in the book are so intriguing, cool and crazy, you kind of fall in love with all of them in a twisted sort of way. This is the one audiobook that I will re-listen within the first 6 months after heard it the first time. There's nothing to wonder about - this is a fantastic experience! Envy you guys that still have this one to come!
Time and patience is what you need to read this book. I would never have finished it if it wasn't an audiobook that kind of read itself... The character descriptions are pretty much amazing and go into immense detail. The story however isn't really moving forward. The book goes from one character to the other, and then back to the first and sure they do things and things happen, but the great underlying story is missing. But perhaps that is life, small things happen and there isn't that great big narrative? Glad to have read it!
I hated this book. I got through about 1/3 and that was only because we were reading it for book club. The characters were unappealing and the story line boring. someone said it was the best book ever written. They obviously don't read much.
"The new 'Great American Novel'"
This book is an intense pleasure to listen to, almost physically satisfying and one can only gawp at the deft brilliance of Franzen's writing. An absolute masterpiece, rendered even more poignant by David Ledoux's tour-de-force reading. His deliberately aggressive, at times sneering tone is just perfect for this text and I find I cannot bring myself to stop listening to it, even when there are other things I should be doing. Addictive novel, which captures the spirit of 21st century angst and makes us all wonder about how we use our relative, perceived freedom.
"Good, but a bit overlong"
I enjoyed this very much - particularly the reading, but this is not as good as The Corrections. The characters were rather unsympathetic, and some - like the daughter were not explored at all.
"Five stars for Audible, four for Franzen"
Having tried The Corrections a few times and given up due to what I perceived as Franzen's overly-verbose style, I approached Freedom with some caution. I wanted, however, to give this author another chance. And I'm glad I did. What helped me get through it was Audible.
David Ledoux's narration deftly navigates Franzen's often serpentine prose, bringing clarity, providing emphasis in all the right places, and not once losing rhythm or sense throughout all those dependent clauses. He added just the right hint of Minnesota accent, kept his characterizations clear without over-doing them (except, perhaps, for the Indian Lalitha, whose voice verges on caricature, reminding me at times of Apu on The Simpsons).
Franzen's text is arch, funny, incisive and unforgiving, and hits the right notes of sympathy once or twice to give his characters heart, especially in the novel's final passage.
My main issue, and several reviewers have pointed this out, is that Patty's journal entries sound as if they were written, not by Patty, but by Franzen. At first I wondered why he simply hadn't written these sections as simple third-person narration. It becomes clear, plot-wise, why these parts have to be in a journal, but their similarity to Franzen's unique style suggests that, as an author, he has but one voice.
Otherwise, if you're looking for a good listen to a contemporary novelist with just the right mix of social satire, character depth and intellectual satisfaction, without overdoing any of them, you'll do well to give this book a listen.
"book of the year!"
please listen to this book.
the narration is wonderful and very entertaining but the writing is breath-taking. I can honestly say that this book struck many chords with me and was able to make me laugh and cry - a bit cliched, I know, but I am so glad I listened and I can't wait for my husband to read it so that I can discuss it with someone.
a wonderful story.
"I avoided all the hype and loved it"
I don't understand why more people don't write like Franzen; portraying the struggles, frustrations and complications of everyday life that are right there in front of us. Like Frank Skinner sticking it to other songwriters ?Apparently there's a whole world out there somewhere. It's right there, right there?.
Maybe most people do read to escape but I just get frustrated with unrealistic fiction. If the characters and the world they live in aren?t real, I don?t care about anything else ...more I don't understand why more people don't write like Franzen; portraying the struggles, frustrations and complications of everyday life that are right there in front of us. Like Frank Skinner sticking it to other songwriters ?Apparently there's a whole world out there somewhere. It's right there, right there?.
Maybe most people do read to escape but I just get frustrated with unrealistic fiction. If the characters and the world they live in aren?t real, I don?t care about anything else in the book. Apart from deliberate surrealism of course. Maybe it?s because you?d really have to put so much of yourself and your loved ones in there to render such well drawn characters. Is that what makes it so hard for other writers?
So I loved Freedom. I was really looking forward to it and it lived up to expectations and ticked all my authenticity boxes. I was always dying to get back to it and see what everyone was up to and spend some more time in their company. Not that I necessarily liked them. They all had likable and dis-likable traits, which in itself is just another healthy dose of reality.
"Not perfect, but pretty damn good."
This is a tale of modern living, all the good, bad and ugly bits. I didn't entirely like any of the characters and thought they often needed a good slap, a shaking, or a kick up the behind. Because I couldn't engage properly with any of them, their traumas left me unmoved. Strangely, though, I couldn't stop listening as there was lots of interest in their lives, taking in politics, environmental issues, sex, money and so on. Much of it is drolly amusing, some bits are laugh-out-loud funny, and the reader brilliantly sustains the huge cast of characters through the many hours of this saga.
"Katz kills birds - a suburban chronicle"
Despite the hype that surrounded the release of this book over the past few weeks, I found there was little to get excited about. What Freedom falls down to is simply an un-extraordinary suburban chronicle of ordinary lives free from insight or real meaning. Whilst much has been made of the unappealing characters, it is the limited number of choices that they make and the lack of any real depth to the interminable ?he said, she said,? which killed off my interest about half way through. In wonderful East Coast company - Donna Tartt, Junot Diaz, John Updike - Franzen has the material on which to zeitgeist-up the GeorgeW-Gen, but no we get a rehashing on the post hippy, post 70?s mourning for the new that we knew. That far in, you grit your teeth and determine to stick it out for the big finish and then, guess what.....?
"Interesting and enjoyable"
Freedom was an enjoyable journey. The storyline captured my interest well and the narrator did an excellent job.
That this is a good book does not need saying. The positive review are well-deserved. What strikes me is the narration - David Ledoux doesn't have an annoying voice, doesn't speak too slowly, doesn't get in the way of the story he's telling, nor does he sound like he's trying to put me to sleep. This deserves your monthly credit.
Franzen is still sharp and presents a very real and unbelievably opressiong picture of American life. Though less depressing than in the Corrections.
Wonderfully read. Not for a minute boring!
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