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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Thom on 12-11-10
Great Portrait of Liberal America Today
I loved this book. I was completely engaged from beginning to end. It's light on plot and heavy on character study, which means it won't appeal to everyone. But I was quite engaged because there were so many levels of insight into these characters and the book seems to define the life and times of middle class americans born in the sixties.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Linda on 05-28-11
Without David Ledoux's clever reading of this very long book, I wouldn't have finished it! I started to read the hardcover, since I recommended it to my book club, but found it wordy and to tell the truth, boring, but Ledoux's creative narrative flare for each character kept me entertained and engaged. Bravo David. I look forward to listening to more of his work.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Deborah on 03-07-11
The new 'Great American Novel'
This book is an intense pleasure to listen to, almost physically satisfying and one can only gawp at the deft brilliance of Franzen's writing. An absolute masterpiece, rendered even more poignant by David Ledoux's tour-de-force reading. His deliberately aggressive, at times sneering tone is just perfect for this text and I find I cannot bring myself to stop listening to it, even when there are other things I should be doing. Addictive novel, which captures the spirit of 21st century angst and makes us all wonder about how we use our relative, perceived freedom.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By Richard on 01-23-11
Five stars for Audible, four for Franzen
Having tried The Corrections a few times and given up due to what I perceived as Franzen's overly-verbose style, I approached Freedom with some caution. I wanted, however, to give this author another chance. And I'm glad I did. What helped me get through it was Audible.
David Ledoux's narration deftly navigates Franzen's often serpentine prose, bringing clarity, providing emphasis in all the right places, and not once losing rhythm or sense throughout all those dependent clauses. He added just the right hint of Minnesota accent, kept his characterizations clear without over-doing them (except, perhaps, for the Indian Lalitha, whose voice verges on caricature, reminding me at times of Apu on The Simpsons).
Franzen's text is arch, funny, incisive and unforgiving, and hits the right notes of sympathy once or twice to give his characters heart, especially in the novel's final passage.
My main issue, and several reviewers have pointed this out, is that Patty's journal entries sound as if they were written, not by Patty, but by Franzen. At first I wondered why he simply hadn't written these sections as simple third-person narration. It becomes clear, plot-wise, why these parts have to be in a journal, but their similarity to Franzen's unique style suggests that, as an author, he has but one voice.
Otherwise, if you're looking for a good listen to a contemporary novelist with just the right mix of social satire, character depth and intellectual satisfaction, without overdoing any of them, you'll do well to give this book a listen.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Christine on 03-27-17
Better than Good
Engrossing, a voice for this age and the next, all of it unfolding unexpectedly from what seems like a purely domestic/relationship-focused beginning. The narration is really engaging and entertaining, well performed dialogue which allows the subtle humour to pack a punch. I loved this novel and want other people to love it, too. Please do.
By Gillian on 09-03-16
Gives much more than expected.
Where does Freedom rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
This is my first Jonathan Franzen. Listening to this story, I became fully involved with the characters. Poor Patty and Walter expressed some of how I feel about life. Their frustrations and petty successes mimic much of what we all go through. This novel scared me, taught me, showed me how to articulate thoughts and feelings that I haven't been able to. It is marvellous! I recognised so much in it. Franzen's ability to express life through the eyes of a
the young and the middle aged is remarkable. He gets down to the nitty gritty; the book demands the reader to concentrate so as not to miss the smallest thing. Read it/listen to it and do yourself a favour. 5 stars.
What other book might you compare Freedom to, and why?
Franzen reminds me a little of Jane Austin - the clever understanding of the 'character'.
What does David Ledoux bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
David Ledoux brought the voices to life.....his ability to speak the female parts as well as the male parts was wondrous.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I did have an emotional reaction to this book. I thought about it long after I had finished it. It made me feel empathy for the characters and feel involved in their lives. I wanted to shake them and hug them and shout at them...!