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the corrections by jonathan franzen

Although this novel has been out in the shops for quite a while, I have only just got around to reading it. At over 600 pages long I was initially put off, despite the fact it had received such rave reviews. Elle called it ‘the first great American novel of the twenty-first century.’ Rachel Cusk in the Daily Telegraph said it was ‘as good as anything I’ve ever read.’ And Mark Lawson’s posse on Newsnight Review for once found themselves agreeing that this book was a masterpiece. The Independent was also enthusiastic. ‘The Lamberts are utterly believable,’ gushed the reviewer, ‘and once they have all told their stories you can’t help but sympathise with them. This is for anyone who has ever found themselves guiltily yearning for an Anne Tyler while in the middle of an Updike or Wolfe.’

But still, over 600 pages . . . that’s not reading, that’s exercise. You see much as I love reading, I also love finishing books – there is something immensely satisfying about reaching that final page. And the shorter the books, the more I finish, hence my avoidance of novels of over 500 pages.

The Corrections, however, has changed my point of view. Not one of its 637 pages left me feeling anything but dread that soon I would have finished it. It’s hard to explain exactly why it’s so bloody good, but the way the characters come to life certainly has something to do with it. Jonathan Franzen, in this tale of three generations of one American family, gets inside the heads of his characters better than any writer you can think of. He also has a painfully acute understanding of family relationships and their often self-destructive nature.

The story follows Parkinson’s sufferer Alfred, his wife Enid, as well as their children and grandchildren, in the run-up to one last family Christmas. En route, you get to laugh, cry and wince with recognition as events unfold. Prepare to be moved.

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