Jonathan Franzen - Freedom (3 stars)

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Jonathan Franzen - Freedom

(Fourth Estate)

It’s one thing to have your latest book dubbed the best of the year when there’s three months of it left, but to be called the finest in a century which has just over 89 years still to run seems a pretty thankless plaudit. Bold and expansive as it is, whether Freedom even manages to succeed in being the number one publication of this fortnight is rather doubtful.

After a rapid-fire start which rattles along like the opening 15 minutes of Magnolia, Jonathan Franzen’s follow-up to the Oprah-taunting glories of The Corrections settles into something all-too comfy and surprisingly stodgy in places. For all the detailed character analysis of the chief proponents (the far too-nice Walter, his increasingly discontented wife Patty and their charismatic yet massively disruptive son Joey), this sweeping panorama through the past and present via satellite figures in the trio’s lives contains occasional jaw-dropping segments but is a litany of stale set-pieces and clumsy dialogue.

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