The Corrections

24 06 2011

This critically acclaimed novel by Jonathan Franzen has been on my to-read list for quite a long time and it’s only recently that I finally managed to pick it up.

I don’t know what I was expecting but it’s certainly not what I got. It’s so depressing that it rubs on you. For the whole two weeks it took for me to finish the book, I was really depressed.  It depicts American life with a cynical and depressing tone.

The story is about a mid-western family Lamberts – the elderly couple (Alfred and Enid) and their three children – Gary, Chip and Denise.  Each one of them has their own version of screwed up lives, which shuddered me quite a bit.

  • Enid, who has never been cared emotionally by her husband, likes to subtly take revenge on her aged and apparently ill spouse.
  • Chip, a great academic, ruins his career by a fling with a student; does odd jobs while working on a script which is far from being good and interesting; finds himself in Ludhiana helping a political person in a shady project
  • Gary, the most successful of the Lambert offspring, has a beautiful but difficult wife, who insists that he is suffering from clinical depression.
  • Denise, confused and insecure right from the beginning, finds herself sleeping with her boss’ wife and gets sacked for it.

Can all this become any stranger?

There is so much resentment, confusion, failure, discontent in their lives. Not withstanding all the issues, the implication that the family by no means represents an extreme case but a perfectly normal one is what gave me the major jolt.

The book is really brilliant in the way the author crafted the story, depicted the characters and their emotions and lives but it’s not at all an easy read. At quite a few points, I literally struggled to get through the narration. The first few pages, in which the author described the Enid’s and Alfred’s house and gave the shape to the couple and their relationship were the most difficult for me. Also, it was hard to hold my attention reading through the hallucinations of Alfred (he’s a Parkinson’s patient) and his struggles with his incontinence. The same with the sexual life of Chip.

All in all, it was very tiresome reading the book. It was not at all a pleasant experience, not with regard to its literary quality but rather to its depressing content.

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