an entertaining, insightful view into three generations of dysfunctional family

Pip is lost. She’s in a dead-end job, buried under a mountain of student debt, squatting in a Bay Area house, and hoping — at some point — to learn who her father is. Then she gets the opportunity to intern with Andreas Wolf, a competitor to Julian Assange in leaking a wide range of documents. Connections begin to be made… The narration jumps to Andreas’s childhood, to the stories of her father and her grandmother in turn. It took me a while to get into it, but I laughed aloud many times while consuming the audiobook.

Here are a few tidbits I noted:

  • “From her mother she’d learned the importance of leading a morally purposeful life, and from college she’d learned to feel worried and guilty about the country’s unsustainable consumption patterns. Her problem at Renewable Solutions was that she could never quite figure out what she was selling, even when she was finding people to buy it.”
  • “Nowadays there is only one habit of highly effective people: Don’t fall behind with your email.”
  • “In technology we trust. We need to put that on the new hundred dollar bill.”
  • “Who could resist the temptation of believing one’s own press?”
  • “It was like beholding my addiction to a substance that had long since ceased to give me the slightest kick of pleasure.”


  • Laura Miller, Slate: “Of all the things people expect from a new Franzen novel, who’d have anticipated that more than anything else it would be so much fun?”

  • Colm Toibin, New York Times: ““Purity” is a novel of plenitude and panorama. Sometimes, there is too much sprawl, but it can suggest a sort of openness and can have a strange, insistent way of pulling us in, holding our attention.”
  • Caleb Crain, The Atlantic: “The ride is exhilarating. All the way down.”
  • Tim Adams, Guardian: “baggy plot and big heart and seductive intelligence”
  • Curtis Sittenfeld, Guardian: “rich scenes and crackling dialogue, its delicious observations about contemporary life, the breathtaking scope of its ambition.”

  • Roxane Gay, NPR: “But, for every wonderful piece of prose, for every masterful stroke in this novel, there is the stuff that was simply distracting, if not alienating and infuriating. For all its extravagant ambition, the book is full of self-indulgent nonsense.”

  • CML, Gawker: “It is obvious from its first page that Purity is a worthless novel and its author, Jonathan Franzen, a worthless writer.”

Books and authors mentioned
  1. Philip K. Dick
  2. Iris Murdoch
  3. Michiko Kakutani
  4. Proust
  5. Philipa Gregory
  6. Candida Lawrence: Reeling and Writhing
  7. Jonathan Safron Foer, Eating Animals
  8. Zadie Smith
  9. Barbara Kingsolver
  10. And many others

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