Monthly Archives: July 2016

Read: Purity: a novel by Jonathan Frazen

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Jonathan Franzen is a favorite of mine. With each consecutive novel, I love his writing and storytelling even more. Purity: a novel delves into a very different family story, which compliments the narratives of Freedom and The corrections, providing yet another take on the makeup and dynamics of the American family. With each of these three novels, Frazen focuses on different life milestones: aging parents, marriage drifting apart, and now all-consuming first love.

One of the main reasons that I enjoy Franzen is his writing style. This novel feels lighter and more easy-going than his other novels, although it is just as serious and thought out. It is more readable, which is a term I like to use because to me it feels really descriptive but perhaps it is not entirely clear to everyone what I mean. His word choice and pacing of the story are so well done that despite its large size it reads very quickly. One sentence pulls you along to the next, and the plot entices you to continue to read on even if it is quite late at night.  There is also a lot of action in the story, including a murder which I believe is new to a friends a novel, although I haven’t read his early ones. Usually his characters are just dealing with life as it comes or recanting the past but there is a lot of present conveyed as each character gets a chance to tell their own piece of the broader story.

Another reason is the depth of his characters. He really considers and conveys multiple, interesting aspects as he writes about his characters in such a way that it truly makes them feel real. Well the main character, who the entire story revolves around her origin, is a young millennial girl who has taken out $130,000 worth of student that could read on the surface as a boring person to write a novel about but the way in which he crafts her personality, quirks, and flaws makes her human instead of a caricature that she could have ended up being from less skilled writer. Throughout the novel, Purity matures with each experience and as she learns about her past, showing how much she has grown as well as her understanding of the world at still such a young age. The same can be said about the rest of the cast of characters. In a way, this reads like a non-fiction account of crazy yet plausible events and family life, with all of the joys and complications.

Franzen always writes amazing stories about family dynamics, but he has truly outdone himself with Purity. The plot itself seems very disparate and yet pieces begin to link up with each passing chapter, slowly but surely and by the very end it has all come together into one integrated tapestry. At first it seemed a little hokey that everything would fit in so neatly but as the story unfolds, the motivations and actions of characters become more clear and understandable. However, it is the ending that is truly moving and like no other that I have read. It is my favorite of all time and will stay with me into the future. What a feat!
Recommended?: Yes! If you have ever wanted to read a Jonathan Franzen novel, this is the one to start with. His other novels, or at least the two previous, are more literary and somewhat more challenging reads. In addition, he offers a lot of commentary on the current workings of the world, the media, and the obtrusiveness of the Internet in our everyday lives. It is a very timely novel, relevant to today on many levels. Even if you don’t want to read a Franzen novel or perhaps weren’t such a big fan of a previous work of his, you should still read this book. It is a great one and such a treat! I most likely will read this one again, which is something I rarely say.

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Read: A game of thrones by George R.R. Martin

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I must admit, I have watched the HBO tv show for years but only recently was I intrigued enough to read A game of thrones, book one of a song of fire and ice, by George R.R. Martin. What finally convinced me was my desire to know how the show differed from the novels, especially since the more recent seasons have taken liberties and are veering further away from the original storylines.

Growing up, fantasy was my favorite genre yet it is not one that I really read these days. A game of thrones certainly fits within that genre, however, it pushes beyond any of the novels that I have read. Martin obsessives over the little details of all parts of the story, including politics, appearances versus reality, and above all represents each main characters perspective within how they see the world and know its history. He isn’t just telling a story, he is crafting a living, breathing world like no other writer than I’ve known (thus far).

While there is a plethora of characters, several in this first book are main characters, with each chapter switching between them, even parents and children which gives the story much more depth than other novels. There are no dichotomies and no one is all good or evil. Each one makes choices and decisions, whether guided by emotions or rationality or a mix, and this allows them to become some of the most complex characters in fantasy. Even though this is his first book of the series, it is obvious that Martin has spent many, many hours dreaming up the world of Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos, which is to the delight of the reader.

Like most fantasy novels, the plot propels itself through action, making it a compelling quick read, though it may take a while to finish. Now, having seen the tv show, that may certainly affect my view on this novel and its readability. The story and characters are not new to me, as they otherwise would be. Instead, reading the book after watching the show does fill-in gaps that I didn’t realize that I had, such as the fact that Jorah is a Mormont. Yes, I know that they saw he is in the show but it got lost in the wave of everything else so it didn’t click until I read it on the page. Also, there is a lot of plot that I had forgotten over the seasons.

I wish that I have read the novels first although my husband finds that knowing the broader story and characters already help him delve more deeply into the novels and keep everything straight. For me, though, I find myself waiting for the plot points that I do remember to come along, many of which are clearly in the succeeding books. It is interesting to be revisiting the story despite this being my first read, however, it spoils it for me since I know what happens eventually to which characters. Very odd to know their fate way before I should as a reader. Having either always read the story/book a movie/show was based on or never intending to read it (The notebook, etc.), this is a first for me and I am not enjoying the experience. Now I want to complete all of the other books before the next season is released, which my timing works out well because the latest season ended recently. Although, I better get reading if I’m going to accomplish that feat!

 

Recommended?: Yes, especially for fantasy fans. Compared to the to show, it isn’t as graphic with the sex and violence but there is some; visual mediums beg for their full use and these days special effects and CGI are particularly good. Likely best enjoyed by adults, though some high schoolers might enjoy it as well, to better understand the motivations and reasons behind the characters. I feel that being older and reading this lets me reflect on it more fully than I would have growing up.

 

Fun and informative resources:

Interactive map of Westeros, Essos, and Sothoryos that shows where certain main character are and when: http://quartermaester.info 

Fansite for novels and tv show: http://www.westeros.org