Book Review: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
February 5, 2011 34 Comments
Freedom, Franzen’s newest book is all the rage. My book shop had a special offer on his earlier book The Corrections (2001), and as I’m always in for a bargain, I bought that with the thought that I’d buy Freedom if this book was any good.
I’m afraid to say, I won’t buy or borrow Freedom just yet. I have enough other books to read, and The Corrections didn’t stand out as a brillliant read. In fact, I found it just so-so.
The Corrections: What it is about
The Corrections describes (mainly) one year in the life of one family (working up from earlier in the year towards Christmas). There is Alfred Lambert, in his seventies, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He’s having hallucinations that his wife Enid ascribes to the medication he takes.
They have three children who long left home. Chip is the youngest and while he made a good start in life, things look less promising by the time we meet him. His girlfriend, Julia, is married to an Lithuanian politician. Gary, the second son, is married with three children. His life seems in order, but he can’t convince his wife to spend Christmas at his parent’s house, which is their greatest wish. Finally, Denise is a chef who, like Chip, has seen better times.
At Christmas, Enid hopes she will be able to have all her children back in her house, maybe for the last time. But will her dream come true?
The story about this dysfunctional family (or maybe they’re just independent people leading their own life?), is told from the perspective of the different member alternately. There are a lot of flashbacks to better times.
The Corrections: What I thought
I found the book somewhat depressing. For some time, whilst I had not read the chapters from some of the characters’ perspectives yet, all looked well. As soon as I finally read their story, it turned out that things weren’t all that well for them.
That was also one of the strengths of the book: in the eyes of the other characters someone would look to be doing reasonably well, but when we got to know the character from up close, things looked rather differently.
Although a lot of things happen in the book (a lot of it as flashback) I got bored with the book. At about the half-way point, I was contemplating abandoning the book. But considering how well many people think about this writer, I decided to continue after all, even if it was a bit of a struggle.
I did enjoy reading the final quarter of the book, possibly because the story was working towards an end and there were fewer flashbacks. Yes, I wasn’t keen on the flashbacks. Usually, I’m happy with flashbacks, getting the background of the main character. However, in this case, we had five main characters with their “current” life as well as flashbacks to various points in their earlier life, and this was too much information for me.
For me, taking a guess here, I would have preferred the story from just one or two of the family members, not all of them.
I got this book: from my local book shop
I read this in: Dutch, translated from English, the original language
Number of pages: 504
First published: 2001
Genre: contemporary fiction, literary fiction