The Winter War, Philip Teir, Serpents Tail 2013

February 1, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Freedom, Middle Weight Fiction, Popular Fiction, The Winter War | Leave a comment

This debut novel has been compared with Jonathan Franzen’s magnificent ‘Freedom’ but this parallel pays no compliment to either book. The scope and style of ‘Freedom’ is imagined with much more daring and detail than ‘The Winter War’ but as I say the comparison is redundant. The ‘Winter War’ in it’s own style is evocative and thoughtful but is also identifiThe Winter Warable as a debut novel. The story chronicles the demise of an upper middle class marriage against the backdrop of a hard Helsinki winter.

The Winter War of 1939-1940 was fought between Finland and the Soviet Union and took the same length of time to be over as did the marriage of the two main characters of ‘The Winter War’ Max and Katriina.

The prose is gentle and subtle an ebbing and flowing of the mind of Max of his going back and forth between decisions in an undefined search. The secondary story of Max and Katriina’s daughter moving to London to pursue an education in fine Art and assert her bohemian side is an interesting but disconnected piece.

This novel treats you to the experience of an unforgiving Helsinki winter and the unforgiving implosion of a marriage neglected and fermented. To paint such pictures is a tribute to the new author whose next novel I’ll be sure to read also. As we all are, this novel is perfect in it’s own imperfections.

 

The book in haiku: Helsinki snowstorm, falling silently at night, too heavy to dig

 

 

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Freedom comes in Time

April 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Award Nominated, Freedom, Great for Book Clubs, Literary Fiction | Leave a comment
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Jonathan Franzen ‘Freedom’ Macmillan, August 2010

The American middle class has been deconstructed and it is fantastic. Believe what you hear about this book Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’ is a truly great state-of-the-nation, deconstruction of our times,  polemic epic of a novel.

The story explores the public and private life of a middle class american family ‘the Berglunds’ and is electrified with Franzen’s own interest in socio cultural issues such as the post 9/11 economy, nature conservation and overpopulation. This gives the novel it’s serious literary value and the reason why I believe it is becoming so acclaimed.

When the novel opens the parents in this family saga aren’t doing well. She is drinking, he is working for a corrupt coal company and they have greatly drifted apart.  Each family member has ideas of reality, entitlement, love, morality and general life expectations that mostly are disappointed. A lot of novels look at these ideas too but Franzen couples them with global issues, hot american topics and ethical conflicts (at one stage father and son, Frank and Joey, become embroiled with a Haliburten like company in a very ill-advised financial pursuit) and these coupled ideas are the tools Franzen uses to dig at and explore middle america with. The socio-cultural aspects of this novel work to create a swinging pendulum of doom that moves in time with the family’s own demise gaining weight with every swing it is a fantastic literary technique reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s ‘Solar’.

This family are written in 3D every dimension of them is soaked in detail and their humanity lend’s the story its page turning compulsion. Between them they are vain, self-pitying, passive aggressive, disloyal, unfaithful, uncommunicative, hungry for love, sexually promiscuous, mercenary, angry and vulnerable.  Franzen is a natural writer in showing how they are all these things only in their struggle to find meaning in a cheapened world and the reason that readers like them so much is because they are struggling. They know something is very wrong the world which they don’t accept and all of them are on the quest for transcendence in their own individual ways.

With this novel Franzen is the first author to appear on the cover of Time magazine since Stephen King did ten years ago. This is one of the most hyped novels in a long time. It is a fantastically well crafted story but so is Curtis Sittenfeld’s ‘American Wife’ and so is Ian McEwan’s ‘Solar’. It is unfortunate that this novel has become a little overshadowed by the hype and a precocious side to the success of this novel is now showing with the New York Times describing Franzen’s own comparisons of ‘Freedom’ to ‘War and Peace’ as ‘laughably conceited’.

An unbelievably well executed novel in good company with Ian McEwan, Don Delillo, Damon Galgut and Curtis Sittenfeld but I haven’t been carried away with the hype to value it as anything more than this.

Haiku; Will ‘Freedom’ now be the new book club selection for Oprah Winfrey?

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