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Freedom (2010)

by Jonathan Franzen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,564397735 (3.78)304
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.
Recently added byarturo.romero, BGAllisonLibrary, Emerson1, private library, MatthewMarr, SheReadsIt, lah146, HPSE
  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. 21
    Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: They are both about the lives of people you learn to care about yet don't always like
  3. 10
    A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle (JuliaMaria)
    JuliaMaria: Umweltschützer
  4. 11
    Unless by Carol Shields (Cecilturtle)
  5. 22
    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (allenmichie)
  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. 11
    The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (hairball)
    hairball: Similar tone.
  8. 12
    May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes (GCPLreader)

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» See also 304 mentions

English (350)  Spanish (17)  Dutch (10)  French (5)  Swedish (3)  German (3)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (395)
Showing 1-5 of 350 (next | show all)
Language is a slippery, ever-changing thing. Because I'm old enough that shaking my head while uttering "kids these days" is my daily ritual, I often don't care for the slang of newer generations. That is until I myself find use for it, and I have done so now: "Say less," Mr. Franzen. Say less.

Though I am naturally snarky, I blame the above paragraph on the hangover Freedom produced. While I still have little in the way of insightful commentary to add to the many reviews and opinions noted by my fellow readers, I do think I have something unique to share. I can't remember if it began with Patty or Walter, but much before the halfway mark of the book, I began "hearing" and reading Patty's voice as that of Laura Linney and Walter's as Jason Bateman's. Of course, the two actors play a married couple on Ozark, but I didn't put that together at first. Initially, it hindered my reading because I wondered if I was channeling the actors or the other characters they play, Wendy and Marty, respectively. Eventually I leaned into it because not only did these "voices" seem beyond my control, but they lent some momentum to my reading; I was able to sit with the book for longer periods of time and therefore get more pages behind me, which was a challenge at times.

It didn't stop there. Unsolicited by my conscious mind, I began reading Richard in the voice of Tim Gutterson, a character on Justified played by Jacob Pitts. Here it was clear that it was the character, not the actor who was living in my head. Lastly, Joey's part was filled by Tanner Buchanan's portrayal of Robby on Cobra Kai.

None of Freedom's other characters were subsumed in my mind in this way, nor is it a typical experience for me. I have no idea of what to attribute it nor of what it means. Did I like the book? Sometimes. I didn't hate it, but I hated how it would oscillate between being interesting and readable for pages at a time and then morph into a slog. This is why I started out with, say less. I wish an editor had insisted Franzen remove some of the sexual grotesquerie between Joey and himself or Joey and Carol and about 50% of the Cerulean Mountain Trust screed. If Franzen gets paid by the word, Jessica was given short shrift. Her bit might have taken up at least as much space as Patty's friend Eliza.

I am on the fence about whether or not I will ever undertake The Corrections, but if so, it won't be any time soon. I've had quite my fill for now. ( )
  mpho3 | Oct 25, 2021 |
Quit about a third of the way through. I found it very boring.
I mostly hate realistic fiction. ymmv. ( )
  Seayla2020 | Aug 21, 2021 |
Franzen ha escrito una novela en el más puro estilo ochocentista, por extensión y temas, situándola en la USA de Bush. La historia de un montón de personajes que se equivocan continuamente pero acaban sus historias bien. Al menos hasta donde Jonathan nos permite conocer sus vidas.
( )
  Orellana_Souto | Jul 27, 2021 |
Wow, what an awful, tedious book. Good writers can use boring, unlikable scenes and dialogue to make interesting portraits of realistic human beings, who are after all frequently boring and unlikeable. But this book has so many absolutely interminable stretches that it has to be some kind of self-therapy or roman à clef, it's just baffling to me that anyone would spend years and years writing a book like this if they didn't really identify with the determinedly unlovable people in it. Case in point: the endless and painful "diary" sections written by Patty, the main female lead. John Dolan (whose scathing review of The Corrections I honestly tried to not let prejudice me) accused Franzen of having serious female issues and really, the amount of effort Franzen put into making Patty and essentially every other woman in the book as insufferable as he could was pretty weird. Maybe it wouldn't have jumped out at me so much if Dolan hadn't put it in my head, but when the only likeable female character died offscreen in a car crash I was not surprised at all. Then again nobody's likeable, the whole book is just dull epigones being assholes to each other for page after page in wearying detail, and though there were a few good parts where I thought Franzen was going turn it around and make all of this pain worthwhile, no dice. Notably poorly-written scenes: Richard the musician's "edgy" interview with a high school student, Walter the husband's econazi stage rant, the bit when Patty thinks about cheating on Walter while reading a parallel part in War and Peace and actually points it out to the reader, and above all the hilariously nonsensical ending. After finishing it I tried to find some positive reviews to see what I missed, but all I saw were awed raves about how zeitgeisty it was, as if no one else in the country is capable of writing about how fucked up we are with such up-to-the-minute references. If you want to read a good book about flaws and failures you should read A Confederacy of Dunces, where it seems like the author actually had fun writing his book, or was actually able to feel anything other than lifeless, desiccated contempt for the world and everyone in it. I almost hope I never get old enough to find this book's world even remotely realistic or meaningful, it would depress the shit out of me. ( )
1 vote aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Funny. Honest. Interesting. I was so rooting for Walter and Patty to reunite and I was not disappointed. Three cheers for marriage. ( )
  mbellucci | Apr 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 350 (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 (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Franzen, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abarbanell, BettinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlsen, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LeDoux, DavidNarratorsecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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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