Young Pip Tyler doesn’t know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she’s saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she’s squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother — her only family — is hazardous. But she doesn’t have a clue who her father is, why her mother chose to live as a recluse with an invented name, or how she’ll ever have a normal life.
Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world — including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn’t understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.
I don't think I've read a book like this before... you hate everybody! haha... but really, this intertwining 'family' saga' of different viewpoints in different stages was sometimes maddening but had some crazy poignant moments that made up for the lofty and maybe sometimes quite conceited prose and characters. Actually, I think I quite liked Andreas Wolf and every part of his story was intriguing and his internal pleading (I listened to the audio, great narrator) was sooooooooo wow that my eyes watered and my heart palpitated! May not be for everybody but if you want a big literary read this is a great one to pick up.
True confession: Didn't make it past the first 50 pages. "The Collections" drew me in immediately; not this one. And to be honest, I've never really warmed to Franzen after the whole Oprah business. An auteur, an artiste ... don't know. Just that I was glad to put this book down.
In 'Purity' Jonathan Franzen assembles a motley crowd as his characters. One wonders how he is going to connect them. That is his talent. An unlikely plot atrings these characters together and the result is quite gripping and historical at the same time. The language is for the most part powerful for example when Pip says "I'm starting to think paradise isn't eternal contentment. It's more like there's something eternal about feeling contented." I wouldn't wat to be a spoiler so suffice it to say that it's worth reading - yes, all 1032 pages if you're reading the eBook - if somewhat unsatisfactory ending.
There aren't many authors whose books I automatically read without regard to buzz or reviews. Jonathan Franzen is one of the few. His ability to compose devastatingly intimate moments, using a prose so concise that I often forget I'm reading at all, is what draws me to his stories again and again.
I didn't warm up to Purity as easily as I did to Freedom or The Corrections (my hands-down Franzen favorite) but the book was still leagues ahead of nearly everything else I was reading at the time. The story centers on the young, twentysomething Purity "Pip" Tyler who is insufferably naive right from the go. But before you decide to give up on her entirely you meet her roommates, who are all semi-illegally squatting in the same house, and her mother, who's a damaged piece of work on her own, and suddenly Pip is the sanest, most levelheaded person in the room. Like most of us starting out in life, Pip wants to find a solid foothold in this complex, scary world. Her path though is about to get a whole lot murkier when she meets the seductive international visionary Andreas Wolf.
If you can't tolerate your characters being endlessly amoral long past the point where you'd feel sorry for them, then Purity probably isn't for you. Nor is anything Franzen-related for that matter.
I loved this book. The characters are interesting. Don't expect to like them as people, but be prepared to identify with the fraught relationships they experience. Franzen has an amazing ability to capture extremely complex/difficult relationships and write about them in a way that's insightful without being too self-indulgent. He also has some interesting things to say about the role technology plays in our lives.
I always recommend "The Corrections" or "Freedom" to readers, but this Franzen novel left a bad aftertaste. For me the attempt to write an "epic" tying world-changing events (fall of the Berlin wall, 9-11, debt crisis) to interpersonal relationships got lost in the repetition (in multiple character scenarios) of the following depressing themes:
Mothers exist to do damage to their children;
Men (as a result of damage inflicted by their mothers) are immature, sex-obsessed and at some point become inflamed with the desire to kill their female partners;
Social media = totalitarianism
I certainly did not detect a "hopeful, sympathetic world view" beyond the narrow activities of the title character in the final pages.
Good style. The story line is a bit convoluted, the characters are interesting, unreal at times.
I found the second part more captivating.
The author has obviously spent a considerable effort at writing this story, but to what purpose, I cannot say. Too much focus on the internal lives of contemporary (read: dated) all-American characters.
Franzen is probably the most talented writer writing today. I loved this one *almost* as much as Freedom.
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