You probably think I haven't been reading, but I have—I've just neglected to mention it.
First, I finally read Freedom by Jonathan Frantzen. I say "finally" because I've had it forever but just never felt like digging into it until now. One reason was that this latest Frantzen novel had been compared to his last one, The Corrections, which I'd also read. And the problem with that one, and this one too, is that although Frantzen is a terrific writer, his characters are 100% unlikable. And while I don't necessarily have to feel a kinship with my protagonist (or even antagonist), I do like to find someone in the book who has some redeeming qualities. It doesn't even have to be a lot. But here I found no one to relate to.
Freedom tells the story of Walter and Patty Berglund and their two children, the perfect yuppy family. Or so it seems. Soon enough we learn the dark secrets hiding in their lives, particularly those involving their son Joey, who moves in with the redneck family next door; and their college friend, angry rocker Richard Katz. As with The Corrections, the writing is great and the plot is interesting, so I didn't want to stop reading, but I really disliked everyone I met. And it's a big book to be spending so much time with such unappealing people.
Anyone out there read it? What did you think?
My next book was an after-dinner mint, in comparison: Family Album by Penelope Lively. This is the story of the Harper family, living in their sprawling if decaying mansion outside of London: uber-mom Alison, distant dad Charles, lifelong au pair Ingrid, and six Harper children, each more different than the next. We get the story from all angles as the kids grow up and move on, and it's a warm and humorous and moving story of family life—are other families this nuts, or just ours? This was my first Lively novel; I have The Photograph somewhere in the house and now plan to unearth it and read it. I found her writing style and character development really enjoyable.
But next up is Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone for book group.