About Me

Musings of a hopeful wanderer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom"

Freedom is the second of Franzen's novels and the second that I've read.  He has a knack for showing the intimacies of a family--more often than not, uncomfortably so--and no one is ever as they appear to be.

Freedom follows the turbulence of a traditional four-person nuclear family from St. Paul, Minnesota.  In true Franzian style, the narrative follows the perspective of many people and the main plot points are revealed slowly over 500+ pages.  Perhaps autobiographical, he really cuts deep into layers of family life, particularly how the people we love are the ones against whom our transgressions are greatest.  Franzen really challenges notions of "good" and "bad;" "right" and "wrong."  The ones I first sympathized with in the beginning, I wanted to strangle in the end (and vice versa, for the most part).  The story was hilarious, tragic, raw, and delicate (and, nearing 500 pages, I wouldn't expect much less).

It seems to me, though, that Franzen doesn't much like women.  In both Freedom and The Corrections, the female characters are obnoxious; they're selfish, manipulative, self-indulgent, and fairly uni-dimensional.  The majority of the plot of Freedom follows the actions and consequences of the wife and mother, Patty, though at times she seemed to be little else than a prop.  Without many real motivations outside of competition and pursuit of instant gratification, it was hard to know whether to hate her or pity her.  Perhaps, though, that is the point.

Freedom is a totally enjoyable and surprisingly quick read.  I recommend it to anyone who isn't afraid to look back on their own mistakes to make meaning (and maybe even something beautiful) of them.

1 comment:

  1. You sold me. I just checked this out from my digital library. :)

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