Saturday, November 22, 2008

Book Review: The Corrections

Title: The Corrections
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: A

Abbreviated Summary (from Inside Flap): After almost fifty years as a wife and monther, 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... Stretching from the Midwest at midcentury to the Wall Street and Eastern Europe of oday, The Corrections brings an old-fashioned world of civic virtue and sexual inhibitions into violent collision with the era of home surveillance, hands-off parenting, do-it-yourself mental health care, and globalized greed.

Review: Have you ever read a book that so thoroughly underscores the frailty and fallibility of human existence that you found yourself moved to the point of tears at the ending? If your answer is "No," then it's because you haven't taken the time to read The Corrections. Granted, this tome (at 560+ pages) takes a lot of time to read, I think I was irritated that it took me three weeks rather than the three days I'd been averaging on my reading, but some of that might have been the fault of writing simultaneously. None the less, this book is worth the investment.

Franzen is evocative (and provacative) in his writing--there's no shortage of sensory awareness in his style (the story about Chip putting an expensive fish in his pants is worth all the time in the world). Additionally, his diaglogue is enormously successful. You'll find in reading that the prose:dialogue ratio is high, although not Spartan, but what the characters are saying is exactly what you wish you would have said in a similiar situation (Gary's conversation at the medical supply store regarding the utility of the shower stool in hanging oneself, later ironic, is beautiful).

I found myself fully immersed in the book, there were only a couple of paragraphs that I skimmed because Franzen gets a little olfactory crazy (and I think he's really trying to do something thematically with the sunlight, but it got tedious, in my opinion, but that's probably because I'm not someone who is a great lover of nature and the what-not). This minor issue, which was managed through my selective skimming, is the only factor that caused me to reduce the rating from an A+ to an A.

Please (please, please) read this book. I came away gripped by the enormous influence that fallible humans have on one another's lives. Also, I really thought about the loss of power we experience as we age. The closing pages about Alfred's waning months and days were tragic (not farce, as Franzen references twice throughout the book), but truly heart-breaking.


Sabrina said...

hmmm... I wanted to read this book forever. Finally i got a copy, started reading it and was bored to tears. Should I keep going? I only read about a 1\3... everyone says its good, but I had the hardest time sticking with it!

Heather said...

I did the same thing a couple of years ago... couldn't get into it, put it down. However, this time I couldn't stop reading it.

The first brother is kind of a challenge to read (although he is incredibly, incredibly, incredibly redeeming in the last part of the book), but the others are sufficiently more complex and interesting, I think.

Sabrina said...

Okay... I will give it another try.
But first, my co-workers have convinced me to read not only Twilight.... but the Harry Potter series! What is happening to me?

Heather said...

You've never read Harry Potter? (I just fainted.)