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The Marriage Plot: A Novel Paperback – September 4, 2012
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“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
Top customer reviews
Update after book group discussion: The group's comments were mostly consistent with my thoughts. However, one point did come up which I did not comprehend until our discussion. Eugenides described manic depression very well. We felt he had a personal understanding of it - either himself or someone close to him. It was as though he did not need to research it to just make passing references - he just knew it. We wished he had gone into as much depth with the other main characters as he did with Leonard. If he had, maybe we would have cared more about them.
Madeline was flat as a character, she didn't get as excited about her interests, or her dramas as she could have. It seemed like her main purpose was to serve as a mirror for the guys, maybe the author trying to get inside the head of a girl he always wanted to bed when he was younger, or was she some other sort of cipher and I missed that angle?
I appreciated all the literary references, gave me lots to look up and I get to pretend I studied English in college and see what I missed.
What is up with all the semen in the sink lately? Freedom had one too!
I quoted this book to several people and will likely always remember a few key scenes. Though I definately recommend the book I feel like I can't put this with the others I have given five stars. Maybe because there was nothing in this that seemed exceptional or different even though the book was a great read and I learned a lot from it.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
I'm ambivalent about this book - it is well written & the ending is a masterful resolution, BUT...
Maybe my expectations were too high.Read more