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Freedom
Freedom
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mount...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780312600846
ISBN-10: 0312600844
Publication Date: 9/17/2010
Pages: 562
Rating:
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 69

3.4 stars, based on 69 ratings
Publisher: MacMillan
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed Freedom on + 108 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I couldn't finish it. The book is well written, but I hated the characters so much that I finally just put it down.
reviewed Freedom on + 65 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
The book is held up as one of the greatest books of all time and I just don't get it. I don't mind long books with a lot of descriptive language but often the author seems to write to impress himself. I forced myself to finish the book with the hopes that all the suffering would lead to a great ending but it did not. Dissapointing, long and overrated.
reviewed Freedom on + 175 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy book of the year -- read it!, January 6, 2011

This review is from: Freedom (Audio CD)
DO believe the hype. This was a very good book about a family -- yes a dysfunctional family in some ways -- but is what I think is a fairly astute picture of a husband, wife, son, and daughter facing and trying to deal with the changes that life and circumstance put in front of them. Rather than write a synopsis of the plot, I would rather the reader consider this merely a portrait of a Midwestern middle class family - no, not a typical family per se, but one that could live next door to you.

Franzen's prose is stark. He writes with a pen as sharp as a scalpel sometimes revealing the inner workings of the mind that perhaps are normally kept hidden -- even from ourselves. I liked his other book, The Corrections: A Novel, as well. He has a biting sarcasm and a wry sense of humor that I find incredible and his perceptions about life are razor edged. I know he's not for everyone. He has a way of writing and putting out there the things you don't ever want to think or say and I believe he makes many very uncomfortable. I think he's brilliant.

I am not usually a person who prefers an audiobook to a paper book, but I quickly became engrossed in the story. The reader, David LeDoux, did male voices extremely well. Unfortunately his rendering of the voice of Lalitha got on my nerves! His accent made her unlikeable and she sounded rather simpering which was the opposite of what I believe that Franzen intended that character to be. Other than that annoyance, the voice, despite the changing points of view, was easy to follow and I thought he delivered them believable and entirely human.

The only thing I really didn't like that much about the way the story was told was the way the author jumped back and forth between characters and with sequence. I'm a reader who prefers sequential narrative; nevertheless I found the novel deeply satisfying and one that many of us who struggle with obstacles and unexpected hurdles can understand.

All things considered, I highly recommend this book.
reviewed Freedom on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
The dust jacket blurb was right: Jonathan Franzen's Freedom was an epic of contemporary love and marriage, and one of the most enjoyable books I've read so far in 2011. The story centers on Patty and Walter, satisfyingly framing them and their family first from the perspective of neighbors (and each other) and then panning in to see how each person ticks over many years. It explores various life stages in all their complexity, with both comic and tragic moments, while endearing the characters with all their self-justifying flaws. At the same time, it was a platform to expound on environmentalism and Walter's pet cause, population control. Politically invested readers should note that Republicans are looked down upon by most of the characters, but it's the liberals who are portrayed in all their dysfunctional glory. Freedom also invited me to reflect on the meaning of freedom in the political and civil societal senses, as well as what freedom means with respect to family, friendship, and one's past. A wonderful read whose (somewhat contrived) end I didn't want to reach.
reviewed Freedom on + 90 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
Getting used to Franzen's style takes some time. Although I liked this book, I found the characters to be quite annoying. So much so, that more often than not, I wanted to shake some sense into their spoiled-rotten heads. Maybe that's what Franzen wanted me to feel and if so, he did a good job. Like so many people I see today, they are stuck on themselves, don't think before they act, and remove themselves from nature - a big mistake, as we are a part of that circle of life. I liked the story nonetheless and especially related to Walter in his obsession with birds, the natural world, the environment and how we're destroying it, overpopulation, etc. I too, could go over the edge like him...
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reviewed Freedom on
I wasn't stunned by this book. It was pretty good, but not generally what I go for. It was painfully true to life. Now I'm a little scared to get married. It was redemptive which was a relief, though it hits some sore spots of human flaws. Not a bad book, just a bit too much like the life I'm scared I'm going to be living.
reviewed Freedom on + 14 more book reviews
The main character of this large book appears to be Patty Berglund. Her husband Walter figures prominently as well, as do several other characters. But Patty is the only one who gets to write portions of her own "autobiography", oddly in the third person.

Patty was an athletic young girl who got knocked off the track to a basketball career when she injured her knee. She changed her dreams, married Walter, had children, did her best to become a super housewife. She knew all along that she was not as nice as others thought she was, but there was much she did not know about herself.

Patty was originally attracted to Walter's best friend, Richard Katz. Katz was a musician, womanizer, who initially did not respond to Patty's hints. Patty, however, found herself increasingly attracted to Walter anyway. Walter was almost an anti-Richard. Thin, geeky, an environmentalist. Something in him, though, responded to something in Patty, the ex-athlete who was not much aware of the environment.

We follow Patty and Walter through many years, dipping into the lives of their children and parents as well. Until comes a time when something has gone out of their marriage and Patty is dissatisfied in general. She has become less and less fun to be around for just about everyone. In spite of which Richard is drawn to her.

What is "freedom" in this context? The freedom to do as we please? The freedom to be away from others, to be alone? We watch as Richard continues his self-destructive life, as free as can be. We see Patty and Walter's son free himself from the nest, then later engage make some questionable choices in his career, free from interference. Patty and Walter live their own lives, essentially free of each other.

Some reviewers have called this a novel of its time, and as I think of it I can agree. In a way, it sums up life today in the US for many in the upper middle class in a way that reminds me of John Cheever. There is a lot of humor but underlying that is real warmth. Something you don't see so much in Cheever.
reviewed Freedom on + 53 more book reviews
For crying out loud, I am glad Oprah is not on the air anymore to bamboozle me into reading more stupid books! Yes, the way Franzen writes about the lives of people in a family is somewhat interesting, but as I wondered at the end of The Corrections, so what? Maybe it is just me, but I have no tolerance for starting a good story without a clear direction for how it is going to end. I don't want to read loose stories about not well developed characters and then the book just ends through odd plot contrivances. At 550 pages I expect a real story with deep characterization, instead I got rehashing of the same obvious gender stereotypes. No more Jonathan Franzen for me, thanks.

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