Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Freedom, A Novel
by Jonathan Franzen
Much was written about this book when it first came out last year to great reviews. I read it a while ago and enjoyed it, but have since found myself unable to get enough of a grip on it to talk about it here. I read Jonathan Franzen's earlier book, Corrections, also much loved by critics, but not by me. I could not relate to it at all. I looked up a few reviews on amazon.com and found that the average reader was not nearly as enthralled by either of these books as were the critics.
Freedom is a long novel that wanders all over the place as it follows the life of an American family, named Berglund – yes the husband, Walter, is of Swedish descent, and much of the book takes place in Minnesota. A large part of the book describes his wife Patty as she strives for perfection early in her marriage. It covers her college years and later how she changes: Her regrets of what she perceives as missed opportunities, her anger and depression as the couple struggles with their family and their lives. Her husband changes too in ways that are difficult to understand. Also included is the story of the couple's son, which does not make sense, and to me does not add anything of value to the book. There are issues raised of mining, evicting people from their land in order to blow tops off mountains, using a small bird and the threat of overpopulation as a sort of cover for this. At least that how I saw what happened.
The book did something for me though: It helped me understand what freedom means to many Americans, something that I have never understood before. I will not get into the details of this new understanding here because the issues raised are complex and I want this to be a simple blog about country life. What this book does very well, I think, is to remind the reader that freedom can be a burden and liberty brings temptations.
If you are interested in reading this book, I suggest you go to amazon.com and read a few reviews first. I enjoyed the book very much, it gave me something to think about, but I found it to be not as great as the reviews I read in magazines last year.