The British resist cultural reverence, and the moment that Jonathan Franzen's novel Freedom (Fourth Estate, £20) was declared a masterpiece by American critics, it was asking for trouble over here. The bizarre circumstances of the British publication - the wrong draft was printed and subsequently pulped, then a thief ran off with the author's spectacles at the British launch party - set the tone for reviews, some of which were wilfully scornful.
Let's get this straight: Freedom is the novel of the year. Its portrait of a marriage, luminously and wittily drawn against a backdrop of modern America, is as good as literature gets. Franzen is a modern Tolstoy.