Franzen’s novel of contemporary American culture and constituents has been my reading friend for three weeks and I’ll miss it now I’ve turned the last of its 600 pages. Miss it for the depth to which it burrows under the skin, the psyche, even, though I always hesitate to use this word, the soul of its characters; miss it for the width of its critical sweep across the mostly malign nature of what many call modernity and its ability to maintain my interest in some not very likable characters.
For me, that’s the mark of a ‘good book’ –one where I am engaged even if the subject is un-engaging in places, where characters reflect aspects of me, my life, and occasionally, bits of me and my life that I would rather not think about, thought I had forgotten about,
Franzen’s writing is fluid,painterly when necessary and acerbic and humorous where no other style suits. I had some doubts midway about his ability to shift the camera from the shoulder of one character, then another, and then another and the narrative was more authentic for me when Walter and Joey were in the driving seat. Early in the book I sometimes doubted Patty, perhaps I was meant to but she won me over in the end, convinced me that she was who she was.
It needed all those pages to tell the story, to embrace the decades of Patty and Walter’s lives, and to slip in, which it did so well, the background that helped to shape their lives, their marriage and their impact on family and friends.
Clearly, I’m a fan … take your time to read this and leave a comment please. Now I need to choose a new book, something a little different think –variety in my reading diet being as essential as it is with food. Freedom was a gourmet feast, now to a little light supper.