Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Book Review: Purity by Jonathan Franzen
Author: Jonathan Franzen
Enjoyment Rating: DNF
Source: Digital Copy
I think I started reviewing books on this blog eight years ago. Since that time, I've reviewed everything I've read, and there hasn't been a single time when I haven't finished a book. There have been books I would have preferred not to finish, but I powered through. But I couldn't power through Purity, Jonathan Franzen's newest novel. The first two hundred pages of the book (which I where I gave up) follow Purity, a recent college graduate living in the Bay Area, from her crappy job in Oakland to her mother's house in rural California, to Bolivia, where she takes an internship with a German anarchist.
I've said this before about Franzen's characters in other novels, and I think it applies here. When I read a book I need someone to care about, especially in a book that's more than 500 pages long. That doesn't mean I need someone I identify or agree with, but just someone about whom I want to know more. Franzen's characters tend to be people I don't care about (this was more true in Freedom than in The Corrections, where I actually did care about the characters, despite finding them kind of repugnant). There was no one for me to hold onto in the first two hundred pages of Purity. Her friends are nasty squabbling squatters, her mom is flaky and narcissistic, and she seems to float on the wind between these characters. Maybe it's because I tried to read this novel on a tropical beach, where everything was warm and sunny and kind of perfect, but I could not find purchase here.