Twenty-Seventh City and Its 127 Characters

At a recent trip to the library I spotted Jonathan Franzen’s The Twenty-Seventh City and added it to my stash. I haven’t read anything by Franzen, and I know that The Corrections and Freedom are widely popular. Since I try to read a variety of things, I figured it was time to give Franzen a whirl.

Here’s a quickie for you, no spoilers given:

St. Louis hires a new police chief, a female from India named S. Jammu. She reduces crime in the downtown area, and many citizens worship her while others are skeptical of her motives and tactics. We meet St. Louis native Martin Probst, construction big-wig and builder (though not architect) of the iconic Arch. Probst is the leader of Municipal Growth, whose members include all the big players in St. Louis. Probst’s life starts falling apart as his dog dies, his teenage daughter grows increasingly rebellious, and his contacts stop revering his vision for the city. Meanwhile Asha, a wealthy Indian from a royal family, marries a Hammaker, owner of one of St. Louis’s largest corporations. S. Jammu and Martin Probst are the central, though we meet many, many more.

Back to my thoughts. Maybe I shouldn’t have started with Twenty-Seventh City. There were some things I liked about the book, and some things left me wanting more. First off, there are a lot of characters, and I had a hard time distinguishing them. Nothing seemed to set them apart. Martin and Jammu loosely reminded me of Ayn Rand characters, either Dominique and Roark or Dagny and Reardon, take your pick. Though Rand’s characters had much more psychological depth than Jammu and Martin. There’s politics, deception, lies, affairs, manipulation, and symbolism. There’s satire and conspiracy. I looked hard and long for a character than resonated with me, a character I could really root for, and unfortunately I didn’t find one.

I did finish the novel, though, so there was something that stuck with me. There was something I wanted to see in it. It has a very large scope, and I will try again with a more well received Franzen novel. What do you guys recommend?

Who Should Read The Twenty-Seventh City:
St. Louis Enthusiasts
People Who Enjoy Political Conspiracy
Hardcore Franzen Readers

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