When is a book about a character but isn’t…… ****
Having been to a book signing where Jonathan Franzen spoke and read excerpts from Purity, I had great expectations for his novel.
This was my first chance to read one of his books, and I look forward to reading Corrections and Freedom. Needless to say, I am now a fan.
Based on the title, one would think this is Purity Tyler’s story, but she is almost a minor player. The main parts of the book are more about the people around Purity, nicknamed Pip, and their lives before meeting her. Franzen takes us back in time, several times, to give us different viewpoints on how events led to the current situation in which Purity finds herself.
A thread that holds the story together concerns each of the characters’ relationships with their parents, more to the mother than the father, except for one character. Another is how sex affects their own relationships with the people around them.
The narration is long and although at times boring, Franzen kept me turning pages with his excellent writing, to see where the story would lead. About the time I was ready to say “come on already”, the story would either twist, or Franzen would have another character reveal their side of the story.
There are no characters to like in this book, yet their stories are compelling and because of the depth with which Franzen deals with each one, I had a good understanding of why they are who they are. This stands as a beacon for novels about unlikable characters.
This is a novel that takes time to read and digest, and unlike the title, is not for the pure at heart.
I give this one four stars.