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Freedom Hardcover – Aug 31 2010

37 customer reviews

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"The news about Walter Berglund wasn't picked up locally..."
Read the opening pages from Freedom [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; First Edition edition (Aug. 23 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554688833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554688838
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 4.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 771 g
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #109,184 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010: "The awful thing about life is this:" says Octave to the Marquis in Renoir's Rules of the Game. "Everyone has his reasons." That could be a motto for novelists as well, few more so than Jonathan Franzen, who seems less concerned with creating merely likeable characters than ones who are fully alive, in all their self-justifying complexity. Freedom is his fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it's very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them. --Tom Nissley


?Franzen has an uncanny knack for capturing the torturously self-justifying rhetoric and trendy slang of educated Gen Xers rebelling against their suburban childhoods by seeking ?authenticity? in the grungy core of the American city. The details of time and place and attitude are so sharp as to induce frequent wincing.? - Toronto Star ()

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER on March 19 2011
Format: Hardcover
This is a story about family - about the presence and absence of relationships (both functional and dysfunctional) - set in modern America, and told from a number of different perspectives. The novel opens with an historic view of the Berglund family seen from the perspective of their neighbours in St Paul, Minnesota. The Berglunds (husband Walter, wife Patty, and children Jessica and Joey), are a liberal middle-class family who were part of the gentrification of urban St Paul. Patty was a homemaker, and an ideal neighbour, Walter was an environmentally conscious lawyer. On the face of it, an ideal family but a closer look at the Berglund's lives reveals that all is not as it seems. Patty's much loved son Joey becomes involved with a neighbour's daughter, Connie, and moves in with Connie and her mother. Why has this happened? Who are the Berglunds, really, and where do they come from and what do they stand for? What are they seeking? Why do the family relocate to Washington DC, and leave the home that they have worked on for years?

`Then again, there had always been something not quite right about the Berglunds.'

The next part of the story is an unpublished autobiography composed by Patty Berglund at the suggestion of her therapist. In this, we learn of Patty's youth as a star basketball player and of events in her past. Of how she meets an attractive musician named Richard Katz, and his room-mate Walter Berglund, and of the events that follow in her life.
The novel then moves to New York in 2004 and is seen through the rotating third-person perspectives of Richard, Joey and Walter. Their overlapping narratives take us through much of the novel, until an addendum to Patty's autobiography brings us to 2010 and almost to the end of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By julov on May 12 2011
Format: Hardcover
I cannot beleive all those people who thought this book was boring and uninteresting! I thought it was brilliant, gripping and couldn't put it down. I had previously enjoyed The Corrections very much too. Jonanathan Franzen is a brilliant writer and what I admired most here was his emphasis on contemprary themes, all the while interspersing them with a great story and interesting characters. Of course the characters have flaws but what good would a novel be with only perfect people in it?
Probably, when future generations of literature students are studying this book in university, they'll endlessly discuss the socio-historic context as much as students in past times have studied the world of Dickens, George Eliot or Emile Zola. I am aware that many readers will jump out of their skins at my comparing Franzen to those authors but anyway, read it and see!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Marguerite Lavallée on Dec 19 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent roman d'un auteur américain que je ne connaissais pas. La description des dynamiques qui unissent les individus en interaction ne laisse personne indifférent: bien au contraire, il y a un côté réaliste qu'on peut tout à fait supporter grâce au style d'écriture de l'auteur et de son humour caustique.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ternev Shannon, Qc on Jan. 27 2012
Format: Paperback
One of the most extraordinary novels I have ever read. So much complexity so deftly handled. Reads a little like a nineteenth century novel. It is not for impatient readers who need so many jolts per page to compel them to keep reading. It is destined to become an American classic. Such a vivid sophisticated portrait with an amazing depth of field of so much of contemporary American society. And what a story! And what stories within that story. I am reminded of the lines written by the Irish poet, John O'Donohue: "I would love to live like a river flows, carried buy the surprise of its own unfolding." As such this book unfolds to its very last sentence.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kadi Kaljuste on Jan. 16 2011
Format: Hardcover
What an unsympathetic, unlikeable cast of characters. Given the buzz about this book, I stuck with it even though I was tempted to bail midway, particularly when the book gets heavy into an environmental theme. Just didn't like the characters and found the plot plodded. Typically, I burn through books; this one took me weeks to finish. Now that I've finished it, I feel I've got my freedom back to read something I'll actually enjoy.
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on Sept. 17 2010
Format: Hardcover
"Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved." -- Matthew 24:11-13 (NKJV)

Freedom is the best new work of fiction I've read so far in 2010.

Freedom looks at the pain, responsibility, and potential involved in doing what appeals to you . . . regardless of the cost to anyone else. It's a worthwhile trip that manages to touch on a wide variety of ways that freedom pulls us in some directions and away from others. There's plenty of food for thought here, parceled out in bite-sized nuggets that you can chew on for weeks to come.

I was particularly impressed by the story's narrative structure. As the book opens, you see the Berglund family from the outside-in, the neighbors' view. Very quickly, one set of patterns are disrupted into a totally unexpected direction, drawing you irresistibly into wanting to know what happened.

In part the answer is that no one who isn't in a family really knows what goes on in a family. In another part, it's that people keep secrets from one another . . . particularly what they see as their own dark sides that they don't want others to know about.

From there, the story richly expands into four narratives, by narrators whose connections to others are rich and hard to grasp . . . even for themselves. It's only by overlaying the narratives that the whole picture begins to emerge. At times, you'll want to shake one character or another into doing something different, but of course you cannot do that with a fictional character any more easily than you can with most real persons.
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