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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot (2011)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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To judge from some histrionic negative Goodreads reviews, The Marriage Plot's frequent (though hardly obscure) allusions to important thinkers cause some readers to feel intellectually insecure. Well, I don't know how one could write a campus novel set at Brown in the 1980s whose characters don't have Barthes and Derrida on the brain. There are plenty of things not to like about this novel, but this is a bogus complaint. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
I really liked this book on so many levels. This is a good author! He has written only 3 books and all are good. Published in 2011 and one of the most recent add ons to the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. All of his books have made the list. The setting is Brown University, three college friends who are graduating and going into their first post graduate year. It's a coming of age book as are all of the author's books. This book could be considered romance, a classic love triangle, a coming of age, a book about books/writing, a book about mental illness and a book about philosophy.

The girl, Madeleine Hanna, was not very appealing to me, in fact I thought her quite annoying. I liked Mitchell and not so much Leonard but the story soon becomes very engaging and the two guys rise to the top and Madeleine, well she pretty much stays the same for me.

This book was set in the 80s so that the characters were forced to communicate through writing and landlines but still late enough that feminism was established and not in its birth pains of the sixties and seventies. Mental health was fairly well described I thought. I do agree that the character would never have been on all the medications listed at one time but having worked in mental health from the eighties to the present, i can see the scenario; to the ER in crisis; shot of Haldol, shot of Ativan to calm the mania. Then committed and on to the state hospital and start Lithium but in the mean time to more quickly calm the mania, a short course of Thorazine (was FDA approved for bipolar) and then it should be removed. They used to try for really high, near toxic levels for control, now I think it is a little more toward therapeutic levels but as low as possible to avoid the not so fun side effects. Author did pretty good research I thought.

I listened to the audio read by David Pittu. He did a good job, I thought. At the end, there was an interview with author where he discussed the time period, research that he did, and I found it interesting.

I would recommend this book to just about anyone who enjoys a well written book. If you don't like a lot of literary name dropping, you might not like it, but Madeleine is an English literature major. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 22, 2015 |
I was really disappointed by this book. I enjoyed the other two books I read by Eugenides and was excited to read this one. The book is about three students graduating from Brown in the early 1980s. It jumps back and forth in time, but mostly takes place during their college experience and the year afterwards. The book is extremely pretentious and for the most part the characters drove me crazy—mostly Madeleine, the only female character in the book. Thankfully, they are only characters in a book and I don’t have to interact with them in real life. I am glad I am not in college anymore and don’t have to listen to anyone debate literature or theology with such a sense of arrogant self-importance. Eeek. I didn’t realize how much I hated these characters until I wrote this review. That being said, there must have been something there, because at least I finished the book. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and just never got around to it. I liked The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex a lot, so I figured I would probably like this book as well. I figured wrong. The plot centers around three main characters who attended Brown University in 1982. The events span a few months before graduation and about a year beyond.
The first main character is Madeline. A blond, upper middle class WASP from New Jersey who is somewhat selfish, overly read and frankly, not that interesting. Mitchell Grammatics (really stupid name) is in love with Madeline...for some reason. She doesn’t love him, but also doesn’t seem to mind slightly leading him on over the course of their college years. After graduation Mitchell goes to Europe and India to get over this inexplicable four year crush. Unfortunately for readers he is unsuccessful at this. And then there is Leonard Bankhead. Madeline does love Leonard, a bi-polar slob of a science intern. But Madeline begins to waver in her love for Leonard because bi-polar = hard. And she isn’t someone who does hard.

The Marriage Plot reminds me of everything I didn’t like about Curtis Sittenfields novel Prep. I simply have zero interest in the manufactured problems of upper middle class Ivy Leaguers who have coasted through life and are so bored that they have to create obstacles for themselves. And the obstacles created are fairly existential and lame.
It might had been a more interesting novel had the focus been on Leaonard's struggle with mental illness and the effect this had on his work and relationships. Instead, the author split the narrative into three alternating voices. The result of which is that all of the characters never moved beyond the superficial. And that's The Marriage Plot. A dull read about three dull people. ( )
  queencersei | Aug 4, 2015 |
You’ll think this is pretty good if you come to it without having first read Middlesex or The Virgin Suicides. You’ll think he’s a witty, clever incisive writer who has the ability to write what is effortless to read and with characters that you care about and want to understand. But if you’ve read those two, or even only one of them, you’ll think that he’s lost some of his shine in the near decade that elapsed between those and this.

We have a woman, Madeleine, and two men, both of whom are as flaky as your early twenties typically reveals you to be (without your knowledge at the time of course). Madeleine falls for one and then the other and then, through happenstance, ends up marrying one. This turns out to be much the latter part of for better or for worse at which point the other reappears. It’s kind of like a modern day Austen but less predictable. Actually, come to think of it, the sunrise is less predictable than Austen so that may not be a fair comparison.

Anyhow, along the way, we learn about what makes each of these three tick and why it is that they suffer from the various issues that beset someone just graduating from university. Eugenides explores themes of sanity, love, the value of a life’s work, academia, spirituality and friendship. I didn’t really appreciate this flitting around. It was like the novel really settled for me.

What I did appreciate though was exploring the Calcutta of the mid-1990s. I spent a incredibly formative 6 months living in Calcutta in 1990. It was a delight to revisit Sudder Street, Park Street Cemetery and Mother Theresa’s Home for the Destitute and Dying in Khalighat again. As Mitchell explored them and was influenced by them, I remembered how they too influenced me.

But most people aren’t going to relate to living in Calcutta. This is an okay novel from someone who can produce far better writing. ( )
  arukiyomi | Mar 28, 2015 |
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The novel isn’t really concerned with matrimony or the stories we tell about it, and the title, the opening glance at Madeleine’s library and the intermittent talk of books come across as attempts to impose an exogenous meaning. The novel isn’t really about love either, except secondarily. It’s about what Eugenides’s books are always about, no matter how they differ: the drama of coming of age.
No one’s more adept at channeling teenage angst than Jeffrey Eugenides. Not even J. D. Salinger.
added by LiteraryFiction | editNew York Times, MICHIKO KAKUTANI (pay site) (Oct 6, 2011)

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Jeffrey Eugenidesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Асланян, АннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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People would never fall in love if they hadn't heard love talked about.
~Francois de La Rochefoucauld
And you may ask yourself, Well,
how did I get here? ...
And you may ask yourself,
This is not my beautiful house.
And you may ask yourself,
This is not my beautiful wife.
~Talking Heads
For the roomies,
Stevie and Moo Moo
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To start with, look at all the books.
Phyllida's hair was where her power resided. It was expensively set into a smooth dome, like a band shell for the presentation of that long-running act, her face.
Even now, at bed-and-breakfasts or seaside hotels, a shelf full of forlorn books always cried out to Madeline.
That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren't left-brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented, and math too mathematical - because they weren't musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they'd done in first grade: reading stories. English was what people who didn't know what to major in majored in.
She used a line from Trollope's Barchester Towers as an epigraph: "There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."
Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights.
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Book description
English major Madeleine Hanna must choose between two suitors while working on her senior thesis on the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374203059, Hardcover)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:32 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Madeleine Hanna breaks out of her straight-and-narrow mold when she falls in love with charismatic loner Leonard Bankhead, while at the same time an old friend of hers resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is his destiny.

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