December 26, 2015


Jonathan Franzen


(December 26, 2015)

A fascinating, contemporary Dickensian braided novel, replete with symbolic character names: Purity Tyler, Andreas Wolf, and Tom Aberant. They’re all very serious, very young, and deeply interested in being right – in being pure. When we meet Purity – who people call Pip – she’s trying to break up her roommate’s marriage, for the best of motives. Andreas Wolf lives in a Berlin church basement under the shadow of the Stasi; he counsels girls and takes them to bed until he meets one who is supremely pretty and who can’t sleep with him because she has an evil stepfather. Later, Wolf becomes an internet rock star and world-famous reformer. Aberant is a journalist who falls hard for Wolf and who knows where the bodies are buried. Purity is huge, convoluted, sometimes schematic, and often hammers home and countersets observations of annoying people that might have been less annoying to the reader if they had been touched on more lightly. Still, an intriguing group portrait with an entertaining look at the absurdity of life in the GDR.