The Corrections – Jonathan Franzen

After having enjoyed Freedomthis one was a must read. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Freedom – the characters weren’t as appealing – although I did get the same sense of an America not normally described in novels.

Here is the blurb …

After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of their own lives. The oldest, Gary, a once-stable portfolio manager and family man, is trying to convince his wife and himself, despite clear signs to the contrary, that he is not clinically depressed. The middle child, Chip, has lost his seemingly secure academic job and is failing spectacularly at his new line of work. And Denise, the youngest, has escaped a disastrous marriage only to pour her youth and beauty down the drain of an affair with a married man-or so her mother fears. Desperate for some pleasure to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on an elusive goal: bringing her family together for one last Christmas at home.

Franzen has the ability to write from quite varying viewpoints; from Enid wilfully refusing to acknowledge her husband’s descent into madness (if only he would do his exercises he would be OK), to Chip who seems determined to destroy every opportunity that comes his way, and Alfred in his madness (which from Alfred’s point of view seems to make sense). This creates sympathy for a cast of characters and I was interested in their ‘trials and tribulations’.

The narrative shifts around in both time and view point allowing the story to unfold slowly – a technique that seems to be quite popular of late Maggie O’Farrell did something similar in The Hand That First Held Mine. I like it. I like having my opinions about particular characters challenged when I read their version of events.

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