Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. This is the first book I've ever read by Franzen and although, for the most part, I enjoyed his prose, I absolutely HATED his characters. They were all miserable people doing miserable things to one another. Occassionally I would find myself becoming sympathetic towards a character only to then have them do something so awful that I would find myself loathing them again. Call me old fashioned, but I have a hard time enjoying a book when I can't care about or root for at least one character. I will admit that Franzen turns it around a bit in the end. The last 80 pages or so I was finally compelled to FEEL for some of the characters and that was my favorite part of the book! If some of those good feelings could have been sprinkled throughout the other 500 pages of this tome I think I would have enjoyed it more. But overall this was a trying read for me. Some friends of mine have read this and absolutely loved it and they loved it for the exact same reason that I didn't. Maybe I'm just too positive and sunny of a person to allow myself to wallow in the miserableness for 500+ pages. Not that I'm trying to call my friends negative...oh geez, all this is just coming out wrong now...
Here's the gist:
- I enjoyed Franzen's evocative and painterly writing.
- I enjoyed the pop culture references which helped me feel like this story was truly of today's world, that these characters could actually be real.
- I didn't quite understand the passages that were supposed to be written as autobiography by the Patty character. Patty's autobiographical voice didn't seem any different from Franzen's voice, so that device didn't work for me.
- I wish the characters had been a bit more sympathetic throughout the story. It was hard for me sometimes to push on through because they were all so miserable that I didn't even care what happened to them.
- I'm not sure I would ever read anything else by Mr. Franzen.