- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (October 1, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007441282
- ISBN-13: 978-0007441280
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 748 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,226,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Marriage Plot Paperback – October 1, 2011
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Praise for Middlesex: 'This year's most sumptuously enjoyable book ! superb' Sunday Times, Books of the Year 'This is a truly original and compelling novel, by turns sad, funny and moving' Daily Mail 'The best American novel since The Corrections ! exuberant, ambitious, deeply compassionate and wildly funny' GQ 'A transatlantic epic ! a towering achievement' Los Angeles Times 'A warm and beautifully written novel that illuminates the part of the human soul that even biology cannot reach' Sunday Times Praise for The Virgin Suicides: 'One of the finest novels -- I have read in many years! a wonderful mixture of amusement, wistfulness and contained grief' John Banville 'One of the finest novels in many years -- a Catcher in the Rye for our time' Observer 'Beautiful funny and touching ! Eugenides is a skilful craftsman and a hypnotic storyteller' Jay McInerney 'Entire and unstoppable! a sparkling work' The Times
About the Author
Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993 to great acclaim and he has received numerous awards for his work. In 2003, Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and France's Prix Medicis and has sold more than 3 million copies.
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The novel pokes fun at post-modern literary criticism. However, it is itself an example of what is mocked earlier in the book when the conclusion of the book shows that the novel is really about ... itself. The reader cannot be certain if the author is being ironic here.
A major theme running through this text is reading, and the book, The Marriage Plot, is about marriage plots in a variety of senses, not the least of which is the fact that the novel itself is a marriage plot.
The strongest parts of the book are the trials and tribulations of one of the character's struggles with bipolar disorder. These descriptions are the most vivid sections of the book. Other characters are not quite as fully realized.
The author's handling of time is somewhat haphazard as he takes the reader erratically from one point in time to another with no transition. The reader often has to ask, "when are we?"
It sat on my Kindle reading list, until I read it again from start to finish. It was familiar, but anticlimactic like reliving a not-very-exciting dream sequence. As a college memoir, it is comprehensive and journalistic and not that far out of the ordinary.
The best thing about this book is the dark foray into living with an individual with mental illness, but even that is done superficially and might have been more moving if the writer had been able to help us get caught up in the madness of the character, rather than keeping us at such a "safe" distance.
Would love to see this rewritten from a place of passionate connection. This is a young adult love story and we all remember the throes of passion, and pain of loss, defeat and heart-break, but none of that is reflected in the story-telling. It reads as Love on Prozac.
There really are no weak links in this book. The characters are well-drawn, the plotting is nimble and the language is graceful. Most importantly, the novel is full of both big emotions and big ideas.
The story is set in the early 1980's. Eugenides has said that the 80's still feel like the present to him. Be that as it may, my feeling is that this is very much a period piece, in that it captures with crystalline clarity a very particular moment in the history of ideas. French literary criticism had just washed up onto American shores and every college was deploying seminars in deconstruction and game theory. One of the delights of the book is the way that it both describes the Greatest Hits of post-modern theory and manages to shake free of the intellectual baggage of deconstruction. Without giving anything away, this is the significance of the novel's final paragraph: both the author and his characters find a way out of the (lit crit buzz word alert!) overdetermined landscape of literary conventions, arriving on a frontier where they can be knowing without being jaded.
I was going to say that this clever latticework of narrative and theme was the greatest achievement of the book, but I have to reserve that accolade for Eugenides' portrait of mental illness. I had heard that one of the characters in the book was loosely based on David Foster Wallace, Eugenides' celebrated peer who suffered from mental illness. Eugenides hasn't conceded that Wallace was a model for his character, but that's really beside the point. What's important is the way that Eugenides has been able to get inside of the disease. I have known quite a few manic-depressive and schizophrenic people, but it was only by reading this book that I felt I was able to walk in their shoes. For the first time, I truly understood what these sufferers go through-- for instance, why so many of them stop taking their medication. This level of insight is something that science can't give us, and it serves as a reminder as to why art is indispensable.
A word to those who seem to feel that The Marriage Plot is too freighted with references to literature and literary theory. There is no doubt that a great many books and authors make at least cameo appearances in the pages of this novel. Even so, Eugenides provides enough context so that the uninitiated reader should be able to follow along-- if he or she is willing to think. The book also contains a great deal of information about the propagation of yeast. If I-- an ignoramus of the first order in all things related to biology-- can decipher those passages, then the sections dealing with literary or religious theories should be accessible to most readers.
I also very much enjoyed Eugenides' previous novel, Middlesex, but that book's overwrought ending was flawed. If there is a flaw with The Marriage Plot, it is that it has an ending at all, for I would have happily read on and on and on...