PURITY

Jonathan Franzen

A magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom

In Purity—an epic novel of youthful idealism and disturbing realities—the acclaimed author of The Corrections and Freedom vividly imagines a world of journalists and leakers, Germans and Californians, mega-wealthy titans and homeowners in foreclosure. As she tries to navigate adulthood, Purity “Pip” Tyler embarks on a quest to discover her father’s identity—and to pay down her $130,000 student-loan debt. Squatting with anarchists in a house in Oakland, she is led to the Sunlight Project,

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A magnum opus for our morally complex times from the author of Freedom

In Purity—an epic novel of youthful idealism and disturbing realities—the acclaimed author of The Corrections and Freedom vividly imagines a world of journalists and leakers, Germans and Californians, mega-wealthy titans and homeowners in foreclosure. As she tries to navigate adulthood, Purity “Pip” Tyler embarks on a quest to discover her father’s identity—and to pay down her $130,000 student-loan debt. Squatting with anarchists in a house in Oakland, she is led to the Sunlight Project, an organization whose goal is to expose the secrets of high-profile hypocrites from around the globe. The project is the brainchild of a charismatic, possibly unhinged provocateur who came of age in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. As Pip immerses herself more deeply in his group, she tests the limits of her resilience, bringing to light unexpected truths about the quest for truth itself.

A masterwork by one of the major writers of our time, Purity follows its characters through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. A daring and penetrating book sure to spark discussion among any group.

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  • Picador
  • Paperback
  • August 2016
  • 608 Pages
  • 9781250097101

Buy the Book

$17.00

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About Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen is the author of Purity and four other novels, most recently The Corrections and Freedom, and five works of nonfiction and translation, including Farther Away and The Kraus Project. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the German Akademie der Künste, and the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Praise

“Franzen’s prose is alive with intelligence … the ride is exhilarating.” —Caleb Crain, The Atlantic

“Mr. Franzen’s most fleet-footed, least self-conscious and most intimate novel yet … Mr. Franzen has added a new octave to his voice.” —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“In Purity Franzen writes with a perfectly balanced fluency … offer[ing] a constantly provocative series of insights.” —Ron Charles, The Washington Post

Discussion Questions

1. From the Sunlight Project to Purity Tyler herself, how is purity defined throughout the novel? Are any of these definitions realistic, or are they steeped in youthful idealism? What is at the root of the characters’ impurities?

2. How does the notion of simultaneously benevolent and sinister intentions play out in Purity? Who are the book’s most powerful characters? How is their power derived: Secrets? Money? Integrity?

3. How would you have answered Annagret’s questionnaire? What do Purity’s responses say about her?

4. What does Purity say about humanity’s capacity to exploit, and to redeem?

5. How are sex and trust interwoven in Purity? In the novel, is there a difference between the way men and women pursue their desires?

6. Discuss Purity’s images of mothering, especially between Katya and Andreas, Clelia and Tom, and Penelope and Purity. What accounts for the volatility in these relationships?

7. In their quest to expose the truth, are Tom and Andreas equally admirable? Is Leila’s investigative journalism on nuclear warheads more useful than the Sunlight Project’s leaked emails? Are the real-world hackers Julian Assange and Edward Snowden heroes?

8. Was Andreas right to bludgeon Horst on Annagret’s behalf? How do his motivations compare to those of Tom’s father when he rescued Clelia?

9. How did your opinion of Anabel shift as you read about her from different points of view? Is she insane or noble—or both?

10. Like Purity, the Pip who inhabits Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations faces quandaries of hidden identities and tainted money. How do the dilemmas of the Information Age compare to those of the past?

11. Under what circumstances would you turn down a billion-dollar trust fund? What do we learn about the characters through their perceptions of money and justice?

12. What does the closing scene tell us about irreconcilable differences? What enables Purity to do better than her parents?