Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
A Novel

76%

51 Critic Reviews

This, of course, is the purpose of the novel — not to be an implicit portrait of the artist but to function as a vehicle of empathy.
-LA Times

Synopsis

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 neighbor, 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, total 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 college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbor," 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 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 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.

 

About Jonathan Franzen

See more books from this Author
Jonathan Franzen is the author of four novels (Freedom, The Corrections, Strong Motion, and The Twenty-Seventh City), two collections of essays (Farther Away and How to Be Alone), a personal history (The Discomfort Zone), and a translation of Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening, all published by FSG. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. Karl Kraus (1874–1936) was an Austrian satirist, playwright, poet, aphorist, and journalist. From 1899 until his death, he published the literary and political review Die Fackel.
 
Published September 1, 2011 by Fourth Estate. 570 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
icon35
Peak Rank on Feb 13 2011
icon1
Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
1
Want to Read
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Freedom
All: 51 | Positive: 46 | Negative: 5

Kirkus

Below average
Reviewed by Kirkus Reviews on Aug 01 2010

If “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” (as Kris Kristofferson wrote), this book uses too many words to convey too much of nothing.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Sam Tanenhaus on Aug 19 2010

Like all great novels, “Freedom” does not just tell an engrossing story. It illuminates, through the steady radiance of its author’s profound moral intelligence, the world we thought we knew.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Aug 15 2010

This time, in creating conflicted, contrarian individuals capable of choosing their own fates, Mr. Franzen has written his most deeply felt novel yet — a novel that turns out to be both a compelling biography of a dysfunctional family and an indelible portrait of our times.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on Sep 01 2011

This is not to belittle Freedom. As an engine delivering a certain kind of entertainment – wise, expansive, knowing – it's unbeatable.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by Curtis Sittenfeld on Sep 18 2010

Freedom is a book that grabs hold of you. When I was in the middle, I thought of its characters even while I wasn't reading about them, and when I was reading it, I read several lines aloud to my husband.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Jul 02 2010

Where the book stands apart is that, no longer content merely to record the breakdown, Franzen tries to account for his often stridently unlikable characters and find where they (and we) went wrong, arriving at—incredibly—genuine hope.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Sacks on Aug 20 2010

Freedom" remains a weirdly addictive reading experience.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Sep 30 2011

There's not one throwaway scene in Freedom and, yet, for all that effort, nothing feels overwritten or false.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Alan Cheuse on Aug 05 2010

Despite the brilliance, or maybe even because of it, I found the novel quite unappealing, maybe because every line, every insight, seems covered with a light film of disdain.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Jul 15 2010

Filled with anger, disappointment, depression and brilliant rants about cats, cars, celebrity, media (even NPR!) and much more, Freedom isn't a frolic. But it's a surprisingly moving and even hopeful epic...

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from NPR

Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Oprah Book Club Examiner on Jan 24 2011

For Freedom’s strong-willed characters, it is the freedom for others to have thoughts and make choices they disagree with that drives these characters to the brink of insanity.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Globe and Mail

Above average
Reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner on Sep 03 2010

Franzen is more than capable of virtuoso writing.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from Globe and Mail

AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Emily Withrow on Sep 16 2010

Things might end badly for Walter, but with a gentle, contented hope that makes Freedom a joy to read.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from AV Club

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Benjamin Errett on Sep 04 2010

It’s the great American novel! But we’re over great American novels!

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Thom Geier on Aug 25 2010

This is a deep dive into a fascinating family that feels very real, and fully grounded in our time.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by David L. Ulin on Aug 20 2010

This, of course, is the purpose of the novel — not to be an implicit portrait of the artist but to function as a vehicle of empathy.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from LA Times

The Washington Post

Above average
Reviewed by Ron Charles on Aug 25 2010

The point to remember is that "Freedom" is big enough and thoughtful enough to engage and irritate an enormous number of readers...

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Keith Miller on Aug 24 2010

Franzen writes, in one sense, better than Foster Wallace: more objective, more worldly, better at dialogue.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Suite 101

Above average
Reviewed by Mario Rader on Dec 01 2010

Freedom has concrete value as a hyper-zeitgeist portrayal of our time; a 'b***h' whose reading experience was worth each and every single day of those nine years of waiting.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

USA Today

Excellent
Reviewed by Jocelyn McClurg on Jun 02 2011

Freedom is very, very good. Franzen, the prickly god of literary fiction, is back with a vengeance.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Anis Shivani on Feb 07 2011

Franzen fails to capture the reality of the last decade in conceptual terms.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Dallas News

Good
Reviewed by CHRIS TUCKER on Aug 29 2010

Skillfully capturing the quicksilver changes of the American psyche, Franzen leaves us pondering our bondage to love and desire and family, asking whether one person's flight toward freedom may forge another person's chains.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Express

Above average
Reviewed by Charlotte Heathcote on Oct 10 2010

Franzen pulls out the stops to explore the possibilities with wit, wisdom and sympathy for the terrible mess people unwittingly make of their own lives.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Oregon Live

Above average
Reviewed by Steve Yarbrough on Sep 04 2010

The bulk of the novel is set during George W. Bush's time in the White House, and I thought Franzen did a fine job of showing how the more unscrupulous among us managed to turn national trauma to their own advantage.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Good
Reviewed by ALEXANDRA MULLEN on Aug 30 2010

Jonathan Franzen leaves the wake of the vengeful cetacean behind and asks us instead to consider the Cerulean Warbler, a small blue songbird that migrates between North and South America:

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Denver Post

Good
Reviewed by Steve Weinberg on Sep 12 2010

For what it is worth, I choose to interpret Franzen's masterpiece as a novel of hope, however seriously compromised that hope might be from time to time.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Tampa Bay Times

Good
Reviewed by Colette Bancroft on Sep 05 2010

Franzen's characters are not easy people to like, but he paints them with such patient skill, such exquisite brushstrokes, such an eye for pattern and composition, that we can feel their heartbreaks and wonders as if they were our own.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Slate

Good
Reviewed by Judith Shulevitz on Aug 30 2010

Another of the accomplishments of Franzen's novel is that he lets Walter and Richard—and Patty and Joey—do just that, with tenderness and a compassion that, as he documents better than anyone, are becoming increasingly rare.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

About.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Jeff Alford on Mar 12 2016

Freedom is a terribly relatable book, and the more reflections you see the more deliciously hard it is to stomach.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

About.com Bestsellers

Excellent
Reviewed by Bess Newman on May 01 2010

Freedom is a masterful, absorbing and sprawling novel that's both compulsively readable and exquisitely written.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Zimbio

Below average
Reviewed by Edwin Turner on Oct 22 2010

Franzen has done all the thinking for you. The book has a clear vision, a mission even, but it lacks urgency and immediacy; it is flaccid, flabby, overlong.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Lincoln Journal Star

Above average
Reviewed by Micah Mertes on Aug 30 2010

The whole book is a tonal high-wire act for Franzen, balancing irony and sincerity, satire and pathos.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Chron.com

Good
Reviewed by Maggie Galehouse on Aug 29 2010

Freedom dares to explore disappointment — in our parents, ourselves, our children, our choices, and the state of the world. And Franzen is bold enough ask the big question: Does every life deserve a happy ending?

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Salon

Good
Reviewed by Heather Havrilesky on Aug 30 2010

Ultimately, “Freedom” is a complexly layered, richly imagined domestic tale about personal responsibility that dares to challenge the long-term global ramifications of our most private choices.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Journal Sentinel

Good
Reviewed by Mike Fischer on Aug 28 2010

It (...) reflects a genuine belief that the political really does begin with the personal, that the stories we tell can change how we live, and that great novels not only remain possible, but also still matter.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Scotsman.com

Above average
Reviewed by Scotsman on Sep 14 2010

Freedom is not the Great American Novel, which in any case is probably a mirage. But it is a good novel, humane and perceptive. Patty especially is beautifully drawn - a real achievement.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Chamber Four

Good
Reviewed by Sean Clark on Sep 17 2010

It is a deep book and an engaging one. And Franzen turns a hell of a phrase and writes efficient and potent capsule descriptions...

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Oprah.com

Excellent
Reviewed by The Oprah Magazine on Oct 01 2010

A family saga by an author so good, you'll savor every page.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

The New Zealand Herald

Good
Reviewed by Peter Wells on Sep 09 2010

It's the novel as news, with big things to say on the environment, politics, the family, love, sex and intimacy.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

North Jersey

Good
Reviewed by Craig Seligman on Aug 22 2010

Walter and Patty are the irresistibly disconsolate couple at the center of "Freedom," Jonathan Franzen's monumental tragicomedy of depressive love.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

New York Magazine

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Anderson on Aug 12 2010

Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom illustrates, crankily, the joys of the old-timey literary novel.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Esquire

Above average
Reviewed by Benjamin Alsup on Aug 11 2010

This is a book that acts as though people still had long conversations, still read long books.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

My San Antonio

Good
Reviewed by Rayyan Al-Shawaf on Sep 05 2010

So mesmerizing are Franzen's protagonists, so minutely detailed and multifaceted, that his story proves compulsively readable despite its occasional drawbacks.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Ben Casnocha

Good
on Dec 17 2012

Anyway, Freedom. Frazen’s second big novel. It was a joy to read. The characters are so flawed, and, yes, therefore very recognizable.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

The Satirist

Good
Reviewed by Dan Geddes on Oct 06 2010

This is a book that makes me feel more alive (and to want to write fiction)! Jonathan Franzen has people believing in the novel again.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

The Aquila Report

Good
Reviewed by David Skeel on Oct 23 2010

The novel should prompt us to ask whether we’re living as if Christ is our real freedom, or whether we’re putting too much hope in political or relational freedom.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Straight.com

Good
Reviewed by David Chau on Aug 31 2010

Freedom could only be realized by a writer of Franzen’s calibre and acumen. It is the chronicle of an era, told with shrewd irony.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

The Blurb

Good
Reviewed by Carody Culver on Oct 01 2010

The Berglunds may not be everyone’s ideal neighbours, but their experiences are as revealing as they are absorbing; I loved every single one of the 560 pages that I spent in their company.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

Chicago Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Troy Jollimore on Sep 08 2010

...freedom is a paradox, and perhaps an unattainable ideal. And because it understands this, Freedom is, in the end, a fine, impressive, and memorable novel.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

GQ

Above average
Reviewed by John Jeremiah Sullivan on Oct 01 2010

Freedom folds its flaws into itself, the way a book of this size and ambition has to.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel

National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Benjamin Errett on Sep 04 2010

So yes, it’s a great American novel, but it’s one that covers these subjects without strain or artifice and as such needn’t be burdened with that epithet.

Read Full Review of Freedom: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for Freedom
68%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 4664 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review

Reader reviews & activity

Katrina Bernardo

Katrina Bernardo 5 Sep 2013

Added the book to want to read list

×