Thursday, September 19, 2013

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

This is a really famous book, which may have influenced how I read it. For some reason, I had this thought in my brain throughout: 'wasn't this book the one that sparked the debate about what chick-lit is?' Which means that my review will probably talk about this debate too.

Anyway, Freedom is about Walter and Patty, a married couple who struggle through their marriage (in the later half anyway). Patty is needy and Walter adores her. But when she finds out her adored son is dating the older girl next door, she has a breakdown. Walter and his son are at loggerheads too. And well, it all sounds like another Taiwanese drama. Only that for some reason, I didn't like any of the characters.

While I quite liked the novel, I didn't think that Patty's voice was authentic. It felt like a guy trying to be a girl. And not just that - it felt a little pretentious. Actually, the style of the whole book felt a little pretentious. It may just be me, but whenever people want to write literary books, they tend to come off as pretentious.

So, is this book chick-lit? I'm not sure where I read this accusation, but I think it went something like 'when women write about the home and family, it's chick-lit. When men write about it, it's literature'. Well, I wouldn't consider this book chick-lit, but that's because of the it tries too hard not to be. In terms of content - yes, it's definitely chick-lit. It deals with a theme that appears in many many novels (some of which are considered chick-lit) - love, finding love again, and love (family love).

And while the comparison may be unfair, this is how I see it: Jane Austen (women writer writing about love), her books = literature. Jonathan Franzen (male author writing about love), Freedom = Not literature. It's good writing, but it's not as deep as Austen, and I doubt I'd read it more than one or two times. But if you disagree with me, well, that just brings up the question, what is literature?

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