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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Grows
"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...
Published on Sept. 17 2010 by Donald Mitchell

versus
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stuck with it for little pay off
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...
Published on Jan. 16 2011 by Kadi Kaljuste


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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Grows, Sept. 17 2010
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(#1 HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Freedom (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.

Jonathan Franzen is a well-read author and a talented writer so his narrations dig deep into a variety of literary sources and methods to establish mood, color, imagery, emotion, psychology, physical sensations, and experiences that you'll find seem more than vaguely familiar . . . even when you cannot exactly place them. It's all subtly and humorously done, by an author who loves people and wants the best for them. There's a warm heart underneath all the Sturm und Drang that is what ultimately sets the book apart.

I was pleased to see that the book takes seriously such important subjects as marital love, friendship, sexual attraction, depression, sibling rivalries, parental mistakes, social responsibility, and serving one's fellow human. Rather than treating each topic as a single point of light, Mr. Franzen steps back to give you a globe's eye view from both without and from within. It's at once both terrifically subjective and wonderfully objective.

Be careful that you don't read any reviews that get into much of the story. You need to be surprised in places for this book to work its full magic on you.

Bravo, Mr. Franzen!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stuck with it for little pay off, Jan. 16 2011
By 
Kadi Kaljuste (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Freedom (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compte-rendu, Dec 19 2012
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This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved every word of this beautiful novel, Jan. 27 2012
This review is from: Freedom (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't be put off by all those unfavourable reviews on this site!, May 12 2011
This review is from: Freedom (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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars `The country was finally moving on, finally taking history in its hands again,..', March 19 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Freedom (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.

The structure of the novel works well to convey the themes of the novel, but summarising the story in more detail would diminish the impact of reading it. An element of surprise is needed in order to appreciate the story as it unfolds. Experiencing some of the same scenes form different perspectives enables us to see varying levels of significance, especially where one character's story is interrupted at a critical point, and another character's story begins.

And the characters? While the major characters are well-defined and generally consistent with the stereotypes they represent (I especially enjoyed Joey) I found Patty, frustrating and not particularly likeable or interesting. And because so much of the book is about Patty, this impacted on my overall enjoyment.

I admired the writing in this novel. I appreciated the focus on both the way in which the nature of American society is evolving, as well as the way in which changing (self-perpetuating but frequently circular) relationships in families define relative constructs of freedom. But the major theme is about freedom: how do we define it, and how will we recognise it? Is it tangible or intangible; relative or absolute; singular or collective? What is freedom, if we don't (or can't) use it? What is the purpose of being free if we can't enjoy it?

It's possible to just read and enjoy this book, but there's plenty of food for further thought for those so inclined.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom, Jan. 31 2011
This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
I haven't finished the book yet, but so far it is very good. I'm trying to guess at the ending, but I am unable to do so. At this point I have no idea at the direction the author is going to take to wrap up the book. I am very much enjoying reading. I don't have a lot of time to read, so it's taking me a bit to get through it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not really that freeing, May 29 2011
By 
Cee Ess - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
Maybe Frazen was going for oxymoron, but it's hard to find over 500 pages of microscopic middle and upper middle class detail freeing. The book drones on and weighs on you. I'm not finished, but I can't find the point of it and thus I'm not sure what's making me continue except the right to say I finished it. Frazen's gift is not so much in being observant of human behaviour, but having the ability to capture it and write it down - most of us don't have the patience or inclination to painstakingly revisit the pocks of our youth. I would have liked to see a tighter opening chapter (I read it three times before I could get into the book), longer passages replaced by dialogue and overall, shorter! As with other reviewers, I found that it was overwritten and over-hyped (to settle a score with Oprah - gotta love the power of the media). I much preferred the story "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett or "The Hypnotists Love Story" by Moriarty.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Garbage, Dec 15 2010
This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
What a pile of over-rated, overwritten, uninteresting, self-indulgent pap. Why is it that reviewers seem to go ga-ga over the tedious lives of unhappy people who have absolutely no redeeming features? This book has no message, no meaning, no nothing. And the prose is stilted, mannered and just generally gives off the aroma of "trying to hard to be cool and post-modern". I tried for about 200 pages and then gave up.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, Dec 29 2010
This review is from: Freedom (Hardcover)
Having really enjoyed "The Corrections" I was very keen to read "Freedom" but what a disappointment it has been. I found the main characters completely uninteresting and I felt no sense of involvement with any of them. I couldn't have cared less about the fates of any of them.
The novel revolves around a middle class family with Walter the father being at the centre of the novel. Walter is a stodgy boring "worthy" man who morphs into an uber- but deluded environmentalist hell-bent on saving habitats for obscure birds and in the process is duped by hard core capitalists.
His wife Patty must be one of the least interesting major characters in any modern novel and the two children of this ill-begotten pair are, if that's possible, even less interesting.
At strategic points in the novel Franzen nudges the reader in the ribs and mouths the word "Freedom" - hence the title but the themes that he uses to explore that issue seem jaded - and there was absolutely nothing new - no eureka moment for the reader when you suddenly realize that you are in the hands of a master.
I soldiered on to the end but had completely lost interest after the first few chapters.
A terrible disappointment.
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Freedom
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (Hardcover - Aug. 23 2010)
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