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Vrijheid by Jonathan Franzen

Vrijheid (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Jonathan Franzen, Peter Abelsen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,858343536 (3.78)280
Authors:Jonathan Franzen
Other authors:Peter Abelsen
Info:Amsterdam Prometheus 2010
Collections:Your library

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. 11
    Unless by Carol Shields (Cecilturtle)
  3. 11
    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (hairball)
    hairball: Similar tone.
  4. 22
    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (allenmichie)
  5. 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
  6. 22
    The Privileges by Jonathan Dee (BillPilgrim)
    BillPilgrim: Another modern family story. Jonathan Franzen recommended The Privileges to the New Yorker book club.
  7. 12
    May We Be Forgiven: A Novel by A. M. Homes (GCPLreader)

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» See also 280 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 297 (next | show all)
I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. I am so conflicted by this novel. On the one hand, it is one of the handful of contemporary novels I've read in the last ten years that I feel to be well written. We are clearly in the hands of a master stylist, a formidable intelligence, someone with astounding social insight and armed with immense powers of observation and nuance. There is no doubt that Franzen is an astonishingly talented writer. I actually love him a little bit. He is a feminist, an environmentalist, a bundle of anxiety, a guy who blindfolds himself in order to write (and doesn't make a big thing of it).

But this book has me flummoxed. At the end of the day, the story is about people who, in my opinion, are simply not that interesting. They are upper middle class victims of personal ennui and some pretty substantial sociological shiftings. There is literally not a single woman in this book, for all of Franzen's feminist leanings, who is at all likable (not that characters have to be likable in order to be well-drawn): Patty, the protagonist, is insufferable; Lalitha is nothing but a cliche younger woman worshipping an older man, Connie, intriguing at first in her singleminded devotion to Joey, becomes boring and cloying, and so on and so forth. I found Lalitha and Walter's relationship, which is positioned as "true love," unconvincing in the extreme. I did, however, very much appreciate the nuances of the relationship between Richard Katz and Walter Berglund, and wished to have read more interaction between these two men. I could not, for the life of me, understand what about Patty Berglund drew Katz to her. Could someone help me understand? This is not snark; I truly want to understand what I'm missing. Perhaps, like Walter, I also have too little compassion and pity.

The end of the book--specifically, Walter's existential angst--felt very real and powerful to me. I felt he was most vividly drawn in these pages. But this build-up was dashed, for me, when we learn who the bird sanctuary has been named for. Again, it just didn't resonate for me, as the relationship it alludes to seemed to me false.

Then there is the device of Patty writing her own autobiography. No critic seemed to think this a strained device. In fact, they all thought it brilliant. I think that word was actually used in the Times review: brilliant. Franzen can't help being Franzen, and Patty is not supposed to be the kind of talented writer Franzen is. And yet, he's there at every turn as is almost inevitable. The whole device strained my credulity.
So, yes, exceptionally talented writer. But no, the story did not feel to me to be the storyline of the mythical Great American Novel that the critics had me believing the book would be. ( )
1 vote bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
I'm late arriving at Franzen's work. This is the first I've read, and "The Corrections" obviously beckons (it was checked out in my library at the time I decided to explore his work). "Freedom" is a somewhat elaborately constructed work, with two "autobiographical" sections, written in the third person by one of the novel's characters. The first of these sections is introduced after a brief introductory chapter, and then it reappears later in the novel as it is presented, manuscript form, to one of the other characters in the novel: "here is what was going on, for me, all these years..." The fatal results of this revelation leads, many years later, to a second, briefer autobiographical update. The novel's title appears to be explained, in one of the subsequent non-autobiographical sections, by one of the characters (the recipient of the autobiography, not the author) as: "The reason the system can't be overthrown in this country... is all about freedom. The reason the free market in Europe is tempered by socialism is that they're not so hung up on personal liberties there." The downside to freedom being defined by a right wing manipulated sense of personal liberties is explored with excruciating detail, and hugely complicated results. The tidal pull of the characters in Franzen's writing keeps it interesting: just when you think they've alienated you completely, they do something extraordinary to pull you back into their human orbit. And there is, somehow, a happy ending. ( )
  ShawIslandLibrary | Jul 26, 2016 |
I'm giving Franzen another try. I'm enjoying so-so so far.
  Joseph_W_Naus | Jul 20, 2016 |
This book was difficult to read for the first 7/8 of it. Not in the sense that its prose was heavy or that it fails to take hold of its reader, but that the subject matter becomes increasingly disturbing and depressing; so much so, that I was surrendering to the notion that it also may just end that way. It did not. I actually loved this book and its story of dysfunction; an honest exploration into today's challenges with familial relationships. There is a lot of infidelity and some rather cruel intentions, however, unlike some reviewers, I DID like the main characters in this book...despite their poor life-choices. It's real, believe me, and I loved it. ( )
  bpeters65 | Jul 16, 2016 |
In this ultimate US saga about families and relationships, Franzen plays with the concept of how, despite the freedom and choices available to us in a western democracy, human frailty still comes to the fore. We don't always use that freedom wisely; spoilt by it, we often choose those most selfish paths which ultimately lead to the demise of our own happiness.

Although a fairly long read (a few pages off 600), I loved this novel from the first page to the last, probably even more than I loved The Corrections which was a favourite read from last year. It worked because of its length, not in spite of it; Franzen was able to develop the relationships over periods of years, such that we could see the gradual fraying taking hold, and understand the complexities which led to certain decisions being made.

There is a lot of dialogue in this novel, which can be difficult to get right, yet Franzen totally nails it. He allows the reader to see his characters from all sides, intermingling their virtues with their flaws and capturing the essence of what it is to be human.

A large part of the novel is relayed to us in the form of a main character's manuscript written at her therapists instigation, and whilst some of the musings and memories couldn't have logically worked if you really thought about it, I loved the story too much to care.

5 stars - I have a serious book hangover this morning. ( )
  AlisonY | Jul 9, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 297 (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.

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franzen, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlsen, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, SilviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schönfeld, EikeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Strick, CharlotteCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 ----
To Susan Golomb & Jonathan Galassi
First words
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

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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)

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