Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Started off slow but I ended up really liking this book - highly recommended.
on November 10, 2014
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.
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.