Purity by Jonathan Franzen

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Purity “Pip” Tyler has recently graduated, is living in a squat, working in a dead end job and feeling weighed down by a crippling student loan. She’d like to discover the identity of her father to ask him if he could give her some money to help her repay her debt – he owes her that at least, surely? –  but her eccentric hippy mother won’t tell her who he is. Pip knows nothing about her father, her mother having changed her identity and been in hiding from him since before Pip was born.

Pip’s quest to find her father leads her into the orbit of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic Julian Assange-type hacker and founder of The Sunlight Project, committed to exposing secrets and dodgy dealings. Andreas has become famous as a beacon of truth and transparency, despite his own shady past in Stasi-controlled East Berlin before the wall came down. Andreas in turn leads Pip to Denver, where she finds work as a researcher for an investigative news website, on the trail of a missing nuclear device…

This is a big book, full of big ideas – power, secrets and politics are examined through the prism of a small number of personal relationships. It’s intelligently written and thought-provoking, but still leavened by a dark self-deprecating humour, and it’s all swept along by a fast-paced and intricate plot peopled with flawed, believable characters. Paperback, $33

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