Review of 'Freedom'

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), default quality “Freedom” tells the story of the somewhat dysfunctional - yet strangely relatable - Berglund family whose freedom to chose leads them down unintended paths in the destruction of all they hold dear. Early in the story their son Joey moves in with the free-thinking neighbour's daughter to escape his overly cautious and overbearing mother. The father, Walter, has a long-time friend from his school days, Richard Katz, an on-again, off-again musician who ends up in a disastrous affair with Patty, Walter's wife.

The story unfolds over many years with each of the main characters given time to tell their story - often the same tale we have heard earlier but with a knowing second perspective on events. It is not a short book at almost 600 pages but this gives Franzen time to explore in detail each of his characters and explaining their actions so that as events unfold it is understandable to see what happens. Just because someone is seen to be selfish does not mean this is so. Much like life and I think it is here that the novel hits home - A starkly brutal and often painful narrative on normal people's lives (though I have to say the Berglund certainly seem to have more than their fair share of misfortune). Other than being humorous in the painful situations that arise there is not much more in terms of levity here.

Due to the sheer size I could not really get into this book - I think you would have to start reading and not stop in order to fully appreciate the events as they unfold. As it was, it took me the good part of a month dipping in and out to finish it meaning that I was often taking time to once again immerse myself in the Berglunds' lives. Having said that, this is a very readable, page-turner of a book with a number of serious things to think about - The nature of friendship, marriage, raising children and betrayal of any and all of these despite best intentions. Certainly in the first part of the book the theme of “freedom” - in many forms - often comes up with the choices available and eventual decisions made.

“Freedom” was a best seller for quite some time and is certainly an interesting foray into the human heart. I found it a bit long and difficult to actually like any of the characters - Perhaps the honesty portrayed here was a bit too brutal for me to like them? It is difficult to read a book if you can't really say that you like any of the characters though…Though I can cheer for them to find some sort of eventual happiness despite the circumstances.

Rating: “A bit better than average”

Review Date: 2015-02-07

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Publication Date: 2010

ISBN: 978-0007269761