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The Marriage Plot [Kindle Edition]

Jeffrey Eugenides
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (638 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The long-awaited new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides.

"There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."
—Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers

Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn't get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot: purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. Madeleine was the girl who dressed a little too nicely for the taste of her more bohemian friends, the perfect girlfriend whose college love life, despite her good looks, hadn't lived up to expectations.

But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course "to see what all the fuss is about," and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same. Not after she falls in love with Leonard Morten - charismatic loner, college Darwinist and lost Oregon boy - who is possessed of seemingly inexhaustible energy and introduces her to the ecstasies of immediate experience. And certainly not after Mitchell Grammaticus - devotee of Patti Smith and Thomas Merton - resurfaces in her life, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

The triangle in this amazing and delicious novel about a generation beginning to grow up is age old, and completely fresh and surprising. With devastating wit, irony and an abiding understanding and love for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides resuscitates the original energies of the novel while creating a story so contemporary that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Even among authors, Jeffrey Eugenides possesses a rare talent for being able to inhabit his characters. In The Marriage Plot, his third novel and first in ten years (following the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex), Eugenides describes a year or so in the lives of three college seniors at Brown in the early 80s. There is Madeleine, a self-described “incurable romantic” who is slightly embarrassed at being so normal. There is Leonard, a brilliant, temperamental student from the Pacific Northwest. And completing the triangle is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major from Eugenides’ own Detroit. What follows is a book delivered in sincere and genuine prose, tracing the end of the students’ college days and continuing into those first, tentative steps toward true adulthood. This is a thoughtful and at times disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent. --Chris Schluep

Review

In Eugenides' first novel since the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex (2002), English major and devotee of classic literature Madeleine Hanna is a senior at Reagan-era Brown University. Only when curiosity gets the best of her does she belly up to Semiotics 211, a bastion of postmodern liberalism, and meet handsome, brilliant, mysterious Leonard Bankhead. Completing a triangle is Madeleine's friend Mitchell, a clear-eyed religious-studies student who believes himself her true intended. Eugenides' drama unfolds over the next year or so. His characteristically deliberate, researched realization of place and personality serve him well, and he strikes perfectly tuned chords by referring to works ranging from Barthes' Lovers' Discourse to Bemelmans' Madeline books for children. The remarkably à propos title refers to the subject of Madeleine's honors thesis, which is the Western novel's doing and undoing, in that, upon the demise, circa 1900, of the marriage plot, the novel 'didn't mean much anymore,' according to Madeleine's professor and, perhaps, Eugenides. With this tightly, immaculately self-contained tale set upon pillars at once imposing and of dollhouse scale, namely, academia ('College wasn't like the real world,' Madeleine notes) and the emotions of the youngest of twentysomethings, Eugenides realizes the novel whose dismantling his characters examine." --Annie Bostrom, Booklist (starred review)



Eugenides's first novel since 2002's Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success both as a novel--and as a Jeffrey Eugenides novel. Importantly but unobtrusively set in the early 1980s, this is the tale of Madeleine Hanna, recent Brown University English grad, and her admirer Mitchell Grammaticus, who opts out of Divinity School to walk the earth as an ersatz pilgrim. Madeleine is equally caught up, both with the postmodern vogue (Derrida, Barthes)--conflicting with her love of James, Austen, and Salinger--and with the brilliant Leonard Bankhead, whom she met in semiotics class and whose fits of manic depression jeopardize his suitability as a marriage prospect. Meanwhile, Mitchell winds up in Calcutta working with Mother Theresa's volunteers, still dreaming of Madeleine. In capturing the heady spirit of youthful intellect on the verge, Eugenides revives the coming-of-age novel for a new generation The book's fidelity to its young heroes and to a superb supporting cast of enigmatic professors, feminist theorists, neo-Victorians, and concerned mothers, and all of their evolving investment in ideas and ideals is such that the central argument of the book is also its solution: the old stories may be best after all, but there are always new ways to complicate them---Publisher's Weekly

"A stunning novel--erudite, compassionate and penetrating in its analysis of love relationships. Eugenides focuses primarily on three characters, who all graduate from Brown in 1982. One of the pieces of this triangle is Madeleine Hanna, who finds herself somewhat embarrassed to have emerged from a "normal" household in New Jersey (though we later find out the normality of her upbringing is only relative). She becomes enamored with Leonard, a brilliant but moody student, in their Semiotics course, one of the texts being, ironically, Roland Barthes' A Lover's Discourse, which Madeleine finds disturbingly problematic in helping her figure out her own love relationship. We discover that Leonard had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his first year at Brown, and his struggle with mood swings throughout the novel is both titanic and tender. The third major player is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major who is also attracted to Madeleine but whose reticence she finds both disturbing and incomprehensible. On graduation day, Leonard has a breakdown and is hospitalized in a mental-health ward, and Madeleine shows her commitment by skipping the festivities and seeking him out. After graduation, Leonard and Madeleine live together when Leonard gets an internship at a biology lab on Cape Cod, and the spring after graduation they marry, when Leonard is able to get his mood swings under temporary control. Meanwhile Mitchell, who takes his major seriously, travels to India seeking a path--and briefly finds one when he volunteers to work with the dying in Calcutta. But Mitchell's road to self-discovery eventually returns him to the States--and opens another opportunity for love that complicates Madeleine's life. Dazzling work--Eugenides continues to show that he is one of the finest of contemporary novelists." --Kirkus (starred review)




Product Details

  • File Size: 1265 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf Canada (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004P8JPJK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #467,938 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
352 of 400 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
While I accept the premise of "The Marriage Plot" in literature, the claustrophobic world of Rhode Island's Brown University campus, the intimacies of the three protagonists and the endless particulars of the author's descriptions, I struggle throughout the novel to maintain interest in the characters as they act out the author's theme in real life, a formula writ long ago. The story begins with Madeleine Hanna's graduation ceremony, a girl fascinated with Victorian writers Jane Austen, George Eliot and Henry James, the ease and simplicity of regimented society, the men in her life viewed through that romantic prism, the molding of those we love into acceptable roles, a society married its vision of success. Life never delivers the expected, however- sometimes not even the acceptable- but Madeleine finds refuge in Victorian conventions, Eugenides waxing nostalgic for the putative good old days of the eighties, expounding freely on the college experience, laced liberally with the students' penchant for breaching intellectual boundaries, Greek life, a social milieu thriving in a mild political environment.

Daughter of privilege, Madeleine possesses natural beauty in abundance, a senior concentrating on her thesis, lately enamored of theory, philosophy and semiotics. She is helpless to resist the enigmatic Leonard Bankhead, who lives frugally and perhaps harbors deeper secrets. The third element of Eugenides' emotional ménage a trios is Mitchell Grammaticus, a young man deeply inspired by religious studies planning to travel to India, hopelessly in love with Madeleine, who sees only Leonard.
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809 of 931 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kind of Annoying November 4, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Wow. I consider myself fairly intelligent and with at least an average knowledge of books and authors. But reading The Marriage Plot made me realize how dumb I really am. Every other sentence contains an obscure literary or philosophical reference of which I have never heard. I'm quite interested in the three main characters--the woman and two men in the "love triangle" that begins in their 1980s college years at Brown University--but I can barely get through the constant allusions to philosophical and fictional literary "tropes" (I looked it up.)

Go ahead and hate my review if you will. I spent two weeks diligently plowing through 70 pages of this book. I'm sure it is wonderful, will probably win another Pulitzer for its brilliant author. But for me, reading it was like sitting between two members of the literary intelligentsia at a dinner party, as they try to one-up each other with the depth and breadth of their vast knowledge. I was simultaneously bored,lost and annoyed.
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237 of 271 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Knot than Plot October 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover
One is led to expect it - a new novel by a much-hyped author following on a earlier success. For a number of reasons, I'm glad I read and finished this novel; at the same time however, I'm left dissatisfied and disappointed.

This novel seemed a pale shadow of his earlier work Middlesex - both in the writing and the plot. Young female protagonist gets saddled with an infirm fiance/husband and who then lives in a quandary - sounds a lot like Ann Packer's The Dive from Clausen's Pier. But that's where the resemblance ends. While Packer packed (!) an emotional punch with her deeply nuanced rendering of her protagonist's emotional life and in the process humanized her despite her evident flaws, Eugenides' rendering and characterization of HIS protagonist as well as the other characters by contrast revealed rather thin silhouettes.

It may be an effect of the novel's overall tone and voice; Eugenides assumes a chipper and distantly objective voice in dissecting his characters' inner voices and emotional turmoil, mental lives and activities. His cool, shrink-like/God-like stance however keeps us at a distance and thus from empathizing with their travails despite at times sympathetic portrayals; instead of being drawn into the felt hurts and rawness of their dilemmas, there was a constant underlying thrum reminding me of who they were in the times they lived in (early 1980s) i.e. privileged and self-absorbed college graduates without especially great financial concerns or obligations other than to themselves and what they felt entitled to. There was a diffuse sense of their sophomoric attitudes, jejune concerns and overall busy-ness in tending to themselves and nursing their mental images of each other, such that when reality intruded in a big way, they were all hugely unmatched.
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82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost in the Dark Woods November 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover
I had such high hopes for this novel. I loved Middlesex, and was an English major at an Ivy league school in the 80's - I figured it was made for me. I even had comp lit and lit criticism background, so was ready to dig in. I think the fault might be rooted in the characters - as other reviewers have said, it was hard to CARE about any of them. The beautiful heroine who can get any boy but of course falls for the one who can never make her happy, her privileged family, the depressed but interesting boyfriend. At no point did any of these characters feel real or even convincing. Of the 4000 students at my college, 3990 were more interesting than Madeline and Leonard. They felt more like overdrawn portraits of someone's imagined college roommates rather than any actual character who might have attended Brown in the 80's. The pacing was odd too - the beginning was very weighted down in the college experience with a bit of a jaunt through literary criticism - this was dry to say the least. At times, I had flashbacks to reading the semioticians, deconstructionists (did my share of Derrida and Eco) but the author's prose often felt pedantic for pedantic's sake without adding much to the plot. In fact, I felt like I was reading Kristeva (not a good thing) as the narrative become a bit like a jungle at times. Would I ever make it to the heart of darkness? Barely...after a LOT of college life, suddenly the two lovers marry, go on honeymoon and all hell breaks loose - at the same time, we watch back up boyfriend and follow his peregrinations in India while he tries to work out his own issues, all to win the girl. By the end, as Leonard spiraled into depression, I just didn't care anymore. I felt no sympathy for any of them. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Boring and tideous, didn't finish reading, very disspponted as middlesex was a fantastic book.
Published 7 days ago by Kara Price
5.0 out of 5 stars If you loved The Virgin Suicides, read this
I first fell in love with Jeffrey Eugenides when I read The Virgin Suicides. While I wasn't a fan of Middlesex, I was still excited to read The Marriage Plot. Read more
Published 10 days ago by mellsbells
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
a look at choices made and how they affect your life. sometimes letting go is is the right choice
Published 12 days ago by Bill
3.0 out of 5 stars Vastly more conventional than his prior novels, but still a well...
I didn't fall for it the way I did for the Virgin Suicides or Middlesex, but The Marriage Plot is a focused, well written novel. Read more
Published 14 days ago by jafrank
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
I finished it because I paid for it.
Published 18 days ago by adam gottschalk
4.0 out of 5 stars intelligent, evocative, enjoyable novel
Having graduated from the same college at the same time as the characters in this novel, having participated in many of the intellectual fashions of the early '80s, having traveled... Read more
Published 19 days ago by N. S. Hoffman
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoy the writing and the story line
Enjoy the writing and the story line. As a therapist, I think the mental health problems were effectively handled.
Published 24 days ago by Deborah Polinsky
4.0 out of 5 stars Like his
Have read several of his book. Like his style
Published 27 days ago by B. Hibbard
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Boring. Nowhere near as good as Middlesex.
Published 28 days ago by E. Weber
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit disappointed
I didn't like it so much... it's nothing compared to the author's epic "Middlesex" so i was a bit disappointed.
Published 28 days ago by Shiri
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More About the Author

Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux to great acclaim in 1993, and he has received numerous awards for his work.

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