I couldn't finish it. The book is well written, but I hated the characters so much that I finally just put it down.
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.
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.
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.
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...