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Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) by…
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Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Jonathan Franzen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,118293669 (3.79)251
Member:utiflatt
Title:Freedom: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club)
Authors:Jonathan Franzen
Info:Picador (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 608 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (2010)

  1. 41
    The War Room by Bryan Malessa (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Both are 500+ page modern epics whose stories originate in the Midwest but this one moves far beyond the territory and scope of Freedom. Represented and sold by same agent as Franzen's book and same UK publisher.
  2. 20
    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (allenmichie)
  3. 11
    Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: They are both about the lives of people you learn to care about yet don't always like
  4. 22
    The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (BillPilgrim)
    BillPilgrim: Another modern family story. Jonathan Franzen recommended The Privileges to the New Yorker book club.
  5. 01
    May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes (GCPLreader)
  6. 01
    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (hairball)
    hairball: Similar tone.
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» See also 251 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
When I gave into perceived publishing industry pressure and signed up for Facebook a couple of years ago I remember having sections to complete ÛÏAbout Me,‰Û one of which was ‰ÛÏfavorite quotes.‰Û I gave this some thought at the time, because it was more important for me to lay down something meaningful that might give the few people who looked a true glimpse into what I cared about, rather than simply choosing a whole bunch of TV shows or music that I currently liked, which would only represent who I was in a much more context-based and transitory way. When I finished the Franzen book today I thought of that quote I had chosen again and had an urge to revisit it.

Jonathan Franzen‰Ûªs book Freedom, published in Fall 2010, about a Midwestern American family spanning the last three decades has won many deserved accolades, not the least of which among these is the cover of Time Magazine‰Ûªs tribute to ‰ÛÏThe Great American Novelist‰Û and the final Oprah Book of the Month club selection on the original Oprah show.

On the other hand, the book has also been criticized as out of touch with most of America in its intimate depiction of upper-middle class white guilt and anxieties. Most of Franzen‰Ûªs characters are well-bred, well-heeled, well-read, well-schooled and mostly, well ‰ÛÒ verrrrry liberal. As much a preoccupation with the different levels and meaning to the word freedom in our post modern, over-populated and highly competitive society, the book also devotes a serious amount of pages to the soul searching by key characters on mistakes [that] were made.

The quote I highlighted from the novel, which seemed to speak to the friction and depression Franzen gets at in the social commentary that is at the heart of his story is:

‰ÛÏIt‰Ûªs all circling around the same problem of personal liberties,‰Û Walter said. ‰ÛÏPeople came to this country for either money or freedom. If you don‰Ûªt have money, you cling to your freedoms all the more angrily. Even if smoking kills you, even if you can‰Ûªt afford to feed your kids, even if your kids are getting shot down by maniacs with assault rifles. You may be poor, but the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.‰Û

The quote I had once dropped on Facebook, in my own self-conscious, self-psychoanalytic way was ‰ÛÏFreedom is nothing but a chance to be better,‰Û by Albert Camus. I think I chose it at the time thinking about how compromised the world was, how lucky I normally feel, how sometimes both hopeless and hopeful life can seem in the global and personal challenges it presents.

Somehow, I think Walter and Franzen might be into Camus too.
( )
  JeaniaK | Dec 13, 2014 |
Quintessential psychological horror, especially the power struggle between Walter and his neighbor near the end. Loved the characters in all their ferocity, especially Patty. Laughed numerous times. The ending was a bit pat, but seemed to be a natural outcome. ( )
  CathrynGrant | Nov 21, 2014 |
With less than 100 pages left I gave up on this book, I just could not take it any more. In my opinion the the book could have been half the length. The author writes on and on and on without actually adding anything of value to the story. None of the characters were likable, and they were not developed or even interesting. They all struck me as pathetic in their own ways and not like real people. I continued to read because I was waiting for something to develop for a plot or theme or something. but after 509 pages of 562 I just did not care any more. ( )
  mara.murdoch | Nov 4, 2014 |
Have re-read this one a few times - very insightful and absorbing ( )
  SarahStenhouse | Oct 9, 2014 |
I saw the author in person and listen to him read an excerpt from the story. I was hooked since then but it took a few months for me to find the time to actually sit down and read it.
I was not disappointed, in fact I was thankful I read it. There are many themes to this story, and as one commentator mentioned: unless you are American there is subtext you will not get or relate to.
Although I am Canadian, I understand what Joey meant by opportunities changing since 911. Franzen's story is a good look at life, set expectations (both in terms of society and self) and figuring out the muddle of humanity among it all.

It has political undertones, which seem to be in itself a driving force but its also a good critic of what people expect here and whether its ethical. Best example is the relocation of the CAT. The cat is a cat, a symbol of the destruction its species causes and the naive mindset some have regarding real problems. Its a collective world trying to be defended from self interest and the bird sanctuary is a depiction (at leas to me) of another Tragedy of the Commons.

I really enjoyed the read and I do recommend it! ( )
  Englishurbanette | Sep 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 250 (next | show all)
One keeps waiting for something that will make these flat characters develop in some way, and finally the Nice Man is struck by a great blow of fate. But rather than write his way through it, Franzen suspends things just before the moment of impact, then resumes Walter’s story six years later—updating us with the glib aside that the event in question “had effectively ended his life.” A writer’s got to know his limitations, but this stratagem is clumsy enough to make one want to laugh for the first time in the book. It certainly beats the part where a wedding ring is retrieved from a bowl of feces.
added by danielx | editAtlantic, BR Myers (May 13, 2012)
 
Franzen is an amateur ethnographer impersonating a fiction writer. His novel is overstuffed with finger-puppet characters and the clutter of contemporary life: there's no reason to know that someone is wearing "Chinese-made sneakers" or that someone else watches Pirates of the Caribbean during a transatlantic flight. Freedom is crammed as well with rants passed off as dialogue and dialogue that either serves no narrative purpose or reeks of research done in the lifestyle pages of the New York Times.
added by lorax | editThe Nation, John Palatella (Nov 15, 2010)
 
The freedom of Freedom isn't freedom of choice, it's freedom from it; not an expansion but a narrowing. The book's movement is from the abyss of the abstract to the surety of the concrete, from the potential to the actual. You get there not by reinventing yourself in the American vein, by hatching a plan or heading west or donning a disguise. You do it by going home again, by seeing, as if for the first time, what you've already done, and claiming it as your own.
added by zhejw | editHarper's, Christine Smallwood (pay site) (Nov 1, 2010)
 
I didn't buy one of the characters, I didn't buy one of the plot twists, I found the stuff about a Halliburton-esque company rather convoluted and I was completely absorbed by the rest. Without question, Freedom is a book that grabs hold of you. When I was in the middle, I thought of its characters even while I wasn't reading about them, and when I was reading it, I read several lines aloud to my husband.
 
Franzen's daring has been to take on soap operas and HBO mini-series, demonstrating that if you want modern emotional dramas, the novel can provide them today as effectively as it did in the 19th century. But, he also offers something no HBO series can – the solitude and moral introspection of the novel, the beauty of prose, the imaginative love affair you form with characters you alone see in the way you see them. Freedom is the novel of the year, and the century.
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Jonathan Jones (Aug 23, 2010)
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franzen, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Go together, you precious winners all; your exultation partake to everyone. I, an old turtle, will wing me to some withered bough, and there, my mate, that's never to be found again, lament till I am lost.
The Winter's Tale ----
Dedication
To Susan Golomb & Jonathan Galassi
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The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally -- he and Patty had moved away to Washington two years earlier and meant nothing to St. Paul now -- but the urban gentry of Ramsey Hill were not so loyal to their city as not to read the New York Times.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul - the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbour who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter - environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, family man - she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz - outré rocker and Walter's old college friend and rival - still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to poor Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbour," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of too much liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's intensely realized 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. [Amazon.co.uk]
Haiku summary
What does Freedom mean?
Free to use, free to preserve
Free to love, to live
(StevenTX)

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The idyllic lives of civic-minded environmentalists Patty and Walter Berglund come into question when their son moves in with aggressive Republican neighbors, green lawyer Walter takes a job in the coal industry, and go-getter Patty becomes increasingly unstable and enraged.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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