My definition of ‘a good book’ these days is any book that I look forward to reading more of when I have to put it down, and by this criteria Freedom is a very good book. It’s a social satire and as you’d expect it’s about freedom, specifically the way the idea of freedom has shifted in our society from an emphasis on liberty to an emphasis on selfishness and the idea that we should be able to do whatever we want with no consequences (the people claiming that Paul Henry’s right to free speech was violated when people complained about him being a canonical example). The book is about how humans are highly social, interdependent animals reliant on each other for our happiness, and Franzen shows that if you put animals like that in a culture that celebrates individual freedom to the exclusion of all other virtues then you end up with a society filled with depressed, angry, lonely, frustrated people.
There are variations on this same theme through the book: economics and freedom, psychology and freedom, family and freedom (the central theme of the book is illustrated by the characters who feel free to cheat on their partner with someone more attractive and/or younger and are then devastated when their partner is unfaithful or divorces them).
The book references War and Peace many times, and it does resemble the first third of W&P: the psychological sketch of a specific society at a fixed point in history, the difference being that Tolstoy liked his characters and the people of Russia a whole lot more than Franzen likes the US and the upper-middle class intellectuals he writes about. At least Franzen understands his subjects – the culture, the technology etc – and writes about them with realism as opposed to, say, Updike or Delillo who tend to write like alien anthropologists describing another species after being beamed in from their home planet of literary academia.