Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Purity” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.61  ·  Rating details ·  40,518 ratings  ·  4,444 reviews
A magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom

Young Pip Tyler doesn't know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she's saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she's squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother - her only family - is hazardous. But she doesn't have a clue who her father is, wh
Hardcover, 563 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Purity, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Thomas I thought Freedom was brilliant (and enjoyed it more than The Corrections), but I suspect that may have had much to do with my personal frame of refer…moreI thought Freedom was brilliant (and enjoyed it more than The Corrections), but I suspect that may have had much to do with my personal frame of reference at the time. I thought both books were great, though, and I really appreciate the level of effort that Franzen clearly puts in to his craft. Purity is more Franzen (which I consider to be a very good thing.)

I've heard Franzen haters reference Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, and while I enjoyed that work, I think she is not in the same league with Franzen with respect to his deliberate sentence, paragraph, and story construction as well as his relatable rendering of the human psyche in his last three books. (If you want to experience less refined Franzen, check out Strong's great but stylistically very different.)

Re-reading this answer, I'm concerned that I come across as a pompous ass. I don't think I am, I think it's more that I don't mind that Franzen might be.

Franzen is an artist and a craftsman. If you appreciated the Corrections and Freedom, you'll appreciate Purity (and be glad you read it.)
Erin Before a book's publication, the publisher will create ARCs (advanced reader copies) to be given to bloggers and booksellers to promote the book. Many…moreBefore a book's publication, the publisher will create ARCs (advanced reader copies) to be given to bloggers and booksellers to promote the book. Many booksellers also want to read the book before deciding how many copies to purchase for their stores. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  40,518 ratings  ·  4,444 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Purity
i don't even know what to say in this review - it's a big book by a big author so there's not going to be any shortage of reviews for it, both on here and in the greater world.

but me, i just didn't like it.

and that surprised me. the only other book i have read by franzen was The Corrections, and i liked it a lot. this one sounded like such a crazy departure from franzen's general small-scope but deep-focus take on themes of marriage and family and other interpersonal relationships (i mean, rev
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it
There is a brilliant novel buried in the some indulgent furious prose that is full of contempt for the reader. I really enjoyed the brilliant novel and wished the indulgence has been excised. Full review on NPR next week.
Glenn Sumi
Up till now, I’ve defended Jonathan Franzen. That’s despite his skirmishes with Oprah and Jennifer Weiner, his curmudgeonly comments about social media and his bizarre statement about adopting an Iraqi war or­phan to understand millennials.

The author of The Corrections and Freedom can write. Who cares what people who don’t read his books – and only troll Twitter – think?

But now I’m reconsidering.

His new no­vel is ponderous, bloated and tin-eared. Something’s wrong when a book only gets going
Elyse  Walters
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Yikes... Almighty! Ambitious....and utterly engrossing!!! I say 'mostly' ....not with a negative slant ....but because there were several times where I paused -- ( I just needed to sit
and think about what was written). When I had natural reading breaks....(driving in a car, acupuncture session, swimming, etc. ).... my thoughts were still with this book.

Jonathan Franzen is an immensely gifted writer. Plus, contemporary fiction --is a
genre I enjoy. However, this book may not be for everyone: It'
Violet wells
Franzen’s novels now have a recognisable formula. The passing of the narrative baton between several characters who collectively will tell a family history. Some have said this novel is a departure from his familiar familial territory – but I didn’t see that at all. This is another novel about a family, or, more accurately, two families. I continually felt like I was reading an inferior version of Freedom and The Corrections (both novels I loved). Some have seen it as an attack on the internet. ...more
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
"So many Jonathans. A Plague of literary Jonathans. If you read only the New York Times Book Review, you'd think it was the most common male name in America. Synonymous with talent, greatness. Ambition, vitality.”
- Jonathan Franzen, Purity


I went into this novel with the same trepidation I approach with all of Jonathan Franzen's novels. I admire his talent. Generally, enjoy his fiction, style, and prose, but also end up worn out and wrung out after reading them. Both The Corrections and Freedom
Franzen in Purgatory?
”After all, as Aquinas wrote, the least degree of pain in Purgatory ‘surpasses the greatest pain that one can endure in this world.’”
----Stephen Greenblatt in Hamlet in Purgatory

Writing a novel is an intimate act. And a novel about intimate acts is even more revealing. After listening, twice, to Purity read on audio by Jenna Lamia, Dylan Baker, and Robert Petkoff, I immediately listened to several of the author interviews Franzen gave in the push phase of his novel promoti
Ron Charles
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“It sucks to be well-known,” says a character in the new novel by well-known author Jonathan Franzen. “Everyone should be told this about fame before they start pursuing it: you will never trust anyone again. You will be a kind of damned person.”

It’s tempting to hear that — and mock that — as the author’s cri de coeur. Who else has ever worn the mantle of “The Great American Novelist” so uncomfortably, so unable to relish his fame or renounce it? Even as we’ve largely expelled literary writers f
Paul Bryant
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Big Johnny Franzen is not on top of his game here. Instead, his game is on top of him. This novel was built too high and extended in all directions, probably without planning permission, so maybe no surprise that the ceilings all sag and a lot of the windows are busted out. Leaks everywhere. I lost track of who was actually living in it, people traipsing in all hours of the day and night. Who’s that? Is it Tom’s girlfriend’s first husband’s second wife? Or Pip’s lover’s son’s friend’s father who ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, fiction
Apparently, I looked really intense while reading this, which seems appropriate for one of Franzen’s Big Serious Books, but this one felt lighter than The Corrections and Freedom, and funnier somehow, even though it has all the things I expect from Franzen: the calling out of our emptiness, technology and what it’s done to us, the intense love-hate-needy relationship thing, the girlfriends and wives and mothers are all evil thing, the all fathers are selfish assholes thing, and so on. What I’ve ...more
May 02, 2015 rated it liked it
100 pages to go (and I will finish) and reading a review in the LA Book Review despite trying to avoid all press, sums up my experience.

What darkens Purity and weakens its realist musculature is Franzen’s atavistic treatment of male and female character. In Purity’s calculus, men are predators, women prey, and rape an inevitable aspect of being. We are asked to regard the male characters’ sexual urges — including rape, incest, pedophilia, the consumption of brutal pornography, and acts of murder
Andrew Smith
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the critical success of Franzen's last two novels – both of which I really enjoyed – the release of his first book in five years was always going to be a big deal. I hadn’t read any in-depth reviews prior to launching into it myself (I try to avoid this at all costs) but I had picked up the feeling that though some people really enjoyed it most reviewers pretty much loathed it. Interesting...

The criticism this book received put me in mind of the reaction to Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simm
Jessica Jeffers
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Grumpy Cat made an appearance at BEA two years ago and it was the first my boss – a cranky, fifty-something man with a warped sense of humor – had heard of the internet sensation. He came back from New York telling us how long the lines were for a goddamn cat and, since then, Grumpy Cat has been a particular favorite around the office. Tom even used the feline as his photo for the online staff directory. He is totally one with Grumpy Cat.

Franzen was the big draw at BEA this year—there to promot
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

So much densely packed Franzen-ness to savor here, I don't even know where to begin. I'd have to say Purity, Jonathan Franzen's eagerly-awaited fifth novel (in a roughly 25-year writing career) doesn't disappoint his fans (or certainly not this one), but that is not to say it's a smooth ride navigating this monster. There were several times I found myself fumbling through this, wondering when the heck clarity would ensue. It doesn't help matters that in typical Franzen-fashion, a Pulp
Lee Klein
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Based on the cover image and the initial reviews I skimmed, I thought the character Purity, or Pip, was the central figure, but it's not at all predominately about a young woman with money problems living in an Oakland squat and spending a lot of time online. The title's "broad irony" is, by the end, sort of delicious. The whole J. Franz atmosphere of ickiness is an acquired taste in general -- in this it seems amplified/ickier -- but I found myself savoring the flavor after about 300 of its 563 ...more
Eddie Watkins
Sep 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: american-fiction
Sadly this novel and its full-chestedly tepid prose fucking sucks.
Jessica Woodbury
Jul 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, bff
It would be better if we all read Franzen in a vacuum. Because as soon as his name comes into the picture, everything gets skewed. For better or for worse (though mostly the latter) his personality and image overtake his actual works and color what we say about them. While reading Purity I struggled to think of this as a book rather than a Franzen book. I tried to anticipate how people would react to it and whether their reactions would be valid or too thrown by the author.

With all those caveats
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
While devouring this enjoyable, often brilliant novel, I also found myself trying to articulate just how exactly it differs from The Corrections and Freedom. It's got Franzen's usual pop-literary tone, his commentary on current events, his juicy psychologizing, his landscape of prescription abuse, family dysfunction and sexual pathology. Then halfway through, it finally hit me: Franzen was clearly hugely inspired by Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. With its intense, battle-of-the-sexes storyline and a ...more
Adrian White
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are families, there are fucked-up families and there are fucked-up Franzen families - and boy, does he excel himself here.
I may have read this in a flu-induced delirium but I thought his equating the internet machine with the totalitarian state of the GDR was just inspired.
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The primary theme in Franzen's new hefty novel is so clear and crisp that it swept me along with the plot, which is no small matter, as the plot is exciting and suspenseful. There are several overlapping themes, actually, but the polestar, in my perception, was about the duality of man, and how it antagonizes any presumption of moral absolution. The duality is demonstrated in many forms--literal and metaphorical.

Moral absolutism, as ironically wielded with the title "purity," was a philosophy of
Dec 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Nearly 4.5) Part 1 may be tedious, but from Part 2 onwards, I found this immersive, even action-packed (hey, there’s a murder and a suicide!). Perhaps Franzen could have structured the narrative differently by starting with Andreas and then moving to Purity? By starting and ending with Purity ‘Pip’ Tyler, however, he emphasizes his debt to Dickens: shades of both Bleak House and Great Expectations are there in the discovery of true parentage and unexpected riches, and I also spotted an echo of ...more
Aug 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Can't think of much to say about a book that's been been dissected so widely and in so much detail, but feel obligated to explain something about why I liked it, so: I didn't love The Corrections, and after it I had little desire to read anything else by Franzen. It was the premise of this one specifically that dragged me in; that, and the fact that it got its claws into me early with the character of Purity (Pip) Tyler (a poorly written and implausible approximation of a young woman, according ...more
Sep 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
I fear that, like Lena Dunham, Franzen is someone whose "love to hate him!" persona is actually not a distraction from the greatness of his work, but, secretly, the most interesting thing about him. Is that harsh? He is a very good writer, no doubt. And I tend to defend a lot of the clueless things he says in the media as guileless but refreshingly honest. But reading Purity, I came to the unsettling conclusion that his issues with women are not, in fact, just a personality clash with Jennifer W ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it liked it
I thought both The Corrections and Freedom were terrific books and Franzen a world class author. I still find him a fabulous writer but, really, what is Purity all about? I have no idea what the point of the book was. I am not saying there should always be a clear point in a book, but this was getting really tedious. I even don't get why one of the main characters had to be a East-German, as his story might as well have occured somewhere else. Well, might have made the man more mysterious and co ...more
Francesca Marciano
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Took me a few days to digest and process this hefty volume. This is actually a three and a half rating. Franzen does his job here, and he does it well, as always. He gets it so right when it comes to dysfunctional characters, destructive dynamics, terrible mother son relationships. He's always fun to read,so often regales the reader with a brilliant, surprising insights. I am a fan. A big fan, actually. This said I think he tried to do something slightly different with Purity than in his previou ...more
Jun 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2touchup
Quinquagenarians and the Search for Meaning [updtd 8/21/16; nearly a yr out] Initially saw this as 3.4, but with almost a yr's passage, I say 4.2.
“Don't talk to me about hatred if you haven't been married.”
J. Franzen, "Purity"

In reading novels, I think I can successfully put aside my contempt for an author. It wasn't always so. Twenty years ago I'd not have been able to give an unbiased read to an author such as Franzen after hearing his repulsive supercilious air in successive interviews.

I enj
Aug 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Personal identity and morality in times of the World Wide Web
I have a slight abhorrence of the concept of "purity": it refers too much to sectarian practices inspired by religious and ideological obsessions, which in the past regularly had very harmful consequences. Racial purity for instance was given a scientific foundation in the second halve of the 19th century (phrenology and eugenetics) and we all know how that led to the holocaust. To my horror, I now see it reappear in right-wing identi
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
As a huge fan of Franzen, I can honestly say that after careful consideration Purity is my least favorite of his three major works (The Corrections, Freedom, and now this), mostly because of its lack of originality. Yes, Franzen has departed from the concept of the dysfunctional American family, which fans of The Corrections seemed so up in arms about when Freedom published in 2010 (though I didn’t share the same outcry). However, no matter who the character is, we see the same traits and flaws ...more
Sep 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Based on reading Purity, here is a list of things that Jonathan Franzen likes:
* writing about penises
* writing about masturbation
* the sound of his own voice
* feeling like he is cleverer than everyone else
* going on and on about the things he does not like

Based on reading Purity, here is a list of things that Jonathan Franzen does not like:
* women
* mothers
* women
* kids today
* the Internet
* women
* modern life
* attempts to address environmental issues
* women

Apparently Jonathan Franzen is married,
Sep 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When an author names his main character Pip – a name immortalized in Charles Dickens masterwork, he is almost baiting the reader to make comparisons, so let’s get those out of the way first. Here, Pip is female, not male, although she’s still mesmerized by a charismatic flame (Andreas, a Julian Assange type anti-hero who shines as brightly as Estella), and she, too, is in search of her birthright. The themes are every bit as compelling: love and rejection, wealth and poverty and the predestined ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Add book cover 2 12 Jun 17, 2017 09:49AM  
Plot question (spoilers) 5 43 Apr 01, 2017 01:33PM  
Play Book Tag: Purity/Franzen - 5 stars 8 35 Sep 09, 2016 05:35AM  
Has Franzen become too big to edit? 7 58 Aug 28, 2016 06:54PM  
Franzen on Seth Meyers, reading from Purity, but with a twist 1 13 Aug 07, 2016 06:38PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Marriage Plot
  • Underworld
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer Summary & Guide
  • American Pastoral (The American Trilogy, #1)
  • The Crack-Up With Other Pieces And Stories
  • Pharos and Pharillon
  • A Little Life
  • Zero K
  • Here I Am
  • The Human Stain (The American Trilogy, #3)
  • Middlesex
  • Псоглавцы (Дэнжерологи, #1)
  • Serotonin
  • Normal People
  • White Noise
  • Conversations with Friends
  • Mitt första liv
See similar books…
Jonathan Franzen is the author of The Corrections, winner of the 2001 National Book Award for fiction; the novels The Twenty-Seventh City and Strong Motion; and two works of nonfiction, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone, all published by FSG. His fourth novel, Freedom, was published in the fall of 2010.

Franzen's other honors include a 1988 Whiting Writers' Award, Granta's Best Of Young Ameri

Related Articles

The celebrated scribe of The Corrections talks about his latest portrait of an American family in Freedom and argues that a book doesn't have to be...
23 likes · 12 comments
“Stupidity mistook itself for intelligence, whereas intelligence knew its own stupidity.” 37 likes
“Everyone thinks they have strict limits,” she said, “until they cross them.” 17 likes
More quotes…