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The Marriage Plot: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 2012
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“Eugenides's ability to reinvent the timeless tale of love and soul-searching is swoon-worthy.” ―Vanity Fair
“I gorged myself on The Marriage Plot.” ―Geoff Dyer
“A masterful storyteller.” ―The Seattle Times
“Audacious and moving.” ―Time
“Extremely ambitious...surprising, and propulsive.” ―Chicago Sun-Times
“Deeply humane and elegantly constructed.” ―NPR
“The finale of The Marriage Plot is unexpected, beautiful, and---Dare we hope?---timeless.” ―The Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A master of voice.” ―The Washington Post
“Wry, engaging, and beautifully constructed.” ―The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published by FSG to great acclaim in 1993, and he has received numerous awards for his work. In 2003, Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex (FSG, 2002), which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and France's Prix Médicis.
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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.
This novel - set in the early 1980's - follows the lives and is told from the point of view of three main characters.
The first is Madeleine Hanna and she is graduating from Brown University and she is in some distress. She has just broken up with her boyfriend Leonard and she is not sure what she is going to do next. Madeleine is an English and literature major and she hopes to go to Yale for graduate school. We read early on how focused she is on classic literature and her love of books predominates her life. That is in addition to her boyfriend Leonard.
Leonard Bankhead is a fellow student at Brown, albeit from a completely different background. Whereas Madeleine came from a well-to-do academic family, Leonard on the other hand comes from a dysfunctional family from Portland Oregon. He is a brilliant student and a very handsome guy, but Leonard also seems prone to moodiness. More about that later in this review.
Madeleine is passionately in love with Leonard, but there is our third main narrator who is passionately in love with Madeleine. His name is Mitchell and he is also a fellow student. He is from Detroit and comes from a stable and loving Greek family. Mitchell has alway felt that he and Madeleine would some day get married. He just hopes that she will feel that way as well.
We know that Mitchell is a sensitive, good guy who is searching for his own morality and place in the world. After graduation he goes on long trip to Europe and India with his good friend to do some soul searching and decide whether he wants to come back to the U.S. to get a degree in religious studies.
It took me a few chapters to get into this novel. There is a lot of academic discussion about literature and theory and that slowed me down a bit. In fact I would see whole pages with no paragraph breaks and I was tempted to skim.
But soon enough I was very taken with the story and I ended up really, really liking this book. Not only do these 3 characters feel and act so real, we begin to feel a bond and want to root for each of them.
Will Madeleine end up with Leonard? Will Mitchell end up getting the girl? We won't know till the end, but know that the ending is ultimately satisfying.
One last comment, and this is s a tiny bit of a spoiler so do not read further if you don't want to know anything more even though I really think knowing this won't detract from your enjoyment of the story - this novel gives the best first person description of mental illness I may have ever read. In particular, depression and being bi-polar, referred to as manic-depression back in the 1980's. Not only do we view and understand its horrors from the person suffering, we see what it's like for those who love and take care of these people.