Posted on September 21, 2010 by John Purcell, The Booktopia Book Guru
I once read a book review written by Theodore Dreiser . The book he was reviewing was Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. What I recall of that review, read many years ago, is that Dreiser had come clean, saying something like – it took Maugham 500 odd pages to convey all that is conveyed in the novel, and so much is, what hope have I of giving you an impression of such a novel in a short review? All I should say here is – read it. For it is only by others reading it that my review will be written.
When I sat down to write a review of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen I read through the notes I had taken while reading and found no recognisable pattern in them. If I were to write a review I would have to draw together these disparate reactions and manhandle them into one congenial whole. I found I couldn’t do this.
In the midst of my frustration, I remembered Dreiser’s approach. I was very tempted to follow his example to the letter, but I changed my mind. Readers today have umpteen million novels to chose from (and more every minute). In such bountiful times we all need help to decide what next to read. So, for what they’re worth, here are my notes. They are my thoughts whilst reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and, depending on your reading of them, they will either extinguish your desire to read the book, or increase your desire. I kinda a hope it’s the latter.
Update: A much cheaper edition of Freedom has been released – you can buy it here – if you want…
Franzen opens Freedom with a teaser, he says, these ordinary people, Patti and Walter Berglund, living ordinary lives, are not what they seem. Then he draws a pen portrait of Walter and Patti as seen through the eyes of their neighbours. Yep, we readily agree, these are ordinary people. And yet lurking in the back of our minds is – he said all is not what it seems. And we turn the page. Continue reading
Filed under: Contemporary Literature, Fiction, Literary Classic, Literature, Review, Writing Style | Tagged: Christina Stead, Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, Theodore Dreiser, W. Somerset Maugham | 6 Comments »
Posted on August 24, 2010 by Toni Whitmont
It has taken Franzen nine years to complete Freedom, the follow-up to his 2001 bestselling novel The Corrections, and the wait seems worth it. The novelist just made the cover of Time magazine, the first living author to enjoy that distinction since Stephen King a decade ago. And the positive reviews are beginning to pour in all of which point to it being that rarest of things: an ambitious literary novel and a bestseller.
When I say positive, I mean positive. The Guardian is claiming it as “the novel of the century” with a wrap that starts a formidable and harrowing work, Jonathan Franzen’s new book is on a different plane from other contemporary fiction.
That is some claim. I am a little more tempered but it certainly is a great novel. While the structure at times seemed awkward, Franzen’s ability to create fully-realized, three-dimensional characters and, more so, to inhabit their minds with such penetrating psychological acuity, is seemingly limitless. Sam Anderson says much the same in his article for New York magazine. We have excerpts from that review and others here.
Fourteen years ago, Franzen declared that sweeping socially engaged novels by serious writers had lost their appeal. He then went on to write one, and to sell more than 1.5 million copies of it. A decade later he is attempting to prove himself wrong a second time.
Freedom is a multi-generational epic that follows an idealistic young couple who settle in the rough neighbourhood of St Paul, Minnesota. A very powerful insight into the disillusion of marriage and a story about the challenges, burdens and opportunities of personal freedom, the novel is full of the more generous ironies that endeared The Corrections to readers and literary reviewers alike. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s intensely realised 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.
Click here for more details or to buy Freedom
Delivery after September 1
Filed under: Fiction, Literature | Tagged: Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections | 1 Comment »