This book is big in scope and size and the story takes its time to unravel. It also takes a bit of time to get used to the way that Franzen is going to tell his tale.
You are introduced to the Berglund family who are doing rather well and have a marriage and a middle class lifestyle that is the envy of neighbours. But things fall apart and the book starts with those same neighbours getting the chance to gloat over the downfall of the respectable Walter and Patty and their children Jessica and Joey.
So having introduced a family that has gone from being happy and content to one being torn apart as the Joey moves in with the girl literally next door you finish the first part wondering just where that all came from and where they go from there.
And at the point Franzen starts to take you on a journey. It takes you back in time to the childhoods of Patty and then Walter taking you not only back past the point where the book started but then also forward into the future. These shifting view points overlay and develop the story.
In some senses it reminded me of John Updike in the way that Franzen is describing an America that is in crisis as behind closed doors the perfect nuclear families fall apart. But at other times I found myself thinking that if this was adapted for anything the stage would be the ideal place with each character getting their moment under the spotlight before the family unit took the narrative on collectively.
Slow so far but getting through it.
A review will be posted soon…