Freedom Overrated

I recently read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom.  As a disclaimer, I note that I loved The Corrections and perhaps that is colouring my views, but I found Freedom to be supremely irritating.  It was filled with characters whose hyper self-awareness bordered on self-obsessed navel-gazing.  In regard to one in particular, the author felt compelled to keep telling us how intelligent and fun people found her since there was no evidence of this on the page itself.  It was not this, however, that spoiled what was otherwise a well-written book.  Nor was it the use of death as an easy out in a complex storyline.  Or the undisciplined wanderings off to tertiary characters I had no interest in, or pages and pages of undisguised didactics.   It was that the one person who was uncritically treated by the author and was rewarded with a happily ever after was a self-mutilating young woman whose life – her every choice, as well as her happiness – revolved completely around a man.  Perhaps it’s just reflecting the vagaries of life, but when every other character suffered life’s usual mix of ups and downs, I couldn’t help feeling like I was being told something I found, well, offensive.

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