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As Madeleine tries to understand why “it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in 18th-century France,” real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes.
Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old “friend” Mitchell Grammaticus—who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange—resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.
Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology Laboratory on Cape Cod, but can’t escape the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.
Are the great love stories of the 19th century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By FanB14 on 03-13-13
Esoteric, Vapid, Trite
Were my expectations too high after "The Virgin Suicides" and "Middlesex"? Perhaps it's unfair to place such expectations on a brilliant writer.
I didn't connect with the characters and found them to be whiny, self-absorbed and devoid of personality. The narrator was positively horrible when voicing female characters. Please listen to the sample if you do purchase this book.
The pretentious details and plot the vapid characters wade through was exhausting. Stayed with the book until the last word waiting for an epiphany or a satisfying conclusion, alas to no end. Numerous references to Victorian Brit list were ostentacious and my degrees are in this subject matter.
Enter at your own risk.
68 of 72 people found this review helpful
By Kay on 11-24-11
I Think I'm in Love
To paraphrase (very loosely) somebody: a story without enlightenment is a "beach read"; enlightenment without a story is a textbook. This book has both.
The plot similarities to Franzen's last book (student love triangle extended beyond college) are certainly present, but the similarities end there.The characters in "Freedom" are viewed with such ironic detachment that, although amusing and interesting for awhile (the first part of the novel made a brilliant short story in the New Yorker) their lives become tedious and, ultimately,because it goes on for too long, I was anxious for the book to end.
On the contrary, Eugenides' characters are much more real and sympathetic (appealing, even) and I don't want their story to end. I'm sure Mr. Eugenides is tired of having his work compared to Mr. Franzen's but I just had to jump in on this.
The performance in this audible production is outstanding. The narrator's rendition of the character of Leonard is so good I'm almost falling in love with him myself. I looked for other Audible offerings by this narrator and find that his talents are being under-utilized. He should be employed for books more like this one.
36 of 39 people found this review helpful