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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot (2011)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

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2,9961981,905 (3.53)179

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So I avoided reading this for a while because I love David Foster Wallace so much and find Jonathan Franzen such a disappointment that it's hard for me to face the rest of the crew with anything but cynicism and pessimism. Luckily, that turned out to be PRECISELY the right way to go about reading this novel.

I always really enjoy reading others' reviews on Goodreads, and reviews of The Marriage Plot are no exception. One in particular I found VERY entertaining, because the reviewer complained that The Marriage Plot was about "mundane rich people" with "no real problems." The title of The Marriage Plot refers to Victorian novels, which make a lot of appearances in the book. The plot is modeled after Victorian novels. And the people in this book have WAY less mundane rich person problems than any Austen novel I've read (except Northanger Abbey, which is awesome). And one of the "rich person problems" that a character has is crippling manic depression, so I find that allegation actually pretty offensive.

Speaking of which, there are a few things about The Marriage Plot that I really enjoyed... one of them is the character with crippling manic depression. As A Depressed Person, I appreciated a portrayal of depression that wasn't limited to some weird one dimensional representation. I enjoyed the bits where you get to see the development of the depression - it was very familiar. I also was VERY surprisingly untroubled by the representation of a college-aged woman put together by a middle-aged man. At times it was pretty silly, but most of the time it hit shockingly close to home.

Is The Marriage Plot a complex, intricate work of genius with well-developed characters? No. Do I hate Mitchell with every fiber of my being as a character and find it unlikely that the leading woman would pay any attention to him at all? Uh, yes, absolutely. Did I find the ending of this book totally trite and some gotcha-bullshit? Yeah. But it's still better than The Corrections, and that's all I can hope for.

Also, the tobacco chewing, long-haired, depressed philosophy major ISN'T based on DFW? Bullshit, Eugenides. ( )
  joceloon | Aug 5, 2014 |
Although this book lagged a bit in places, I enjoyed it. I thought the ending was wonderful, and for me, unexpected. Not quite up to the quality of "Middlesex" but good nonetheless. ( )
  meredk | Aug 4, 2014 |
My book group was lukewarm about this tale of young Ivy Leaguers in love. Set in the early nineteen eighties, the central plot element is the love triangle of Madeleine Hanna, a sheltered English major, Leonard Bankhead, her bipolar scientist boyfriend, and Mitchell Grammaticus, a religion major who is desperately in love with Madeleine. Most of my book club members hated the beginning of the book, set at Brown University. They found the extended narrative about a semiotics seminar tediously academic. I, on the other hand, was intrigued, and hoped for more stuff on semiotics, even though I understand it not a whit. The book lagged for me in the middle, as Mitchell goes on a religious pilgrimage to India and Madeline and Leonard become a couple. My interest picked up again when the story turned to Leonard and his struggle with his illness. The descriptions of his manic periods were truly harrowing. And if we're taking a poll, yes, I think the ending was good. ( )
  CasualFriday | Jul 25, 2014 |
Madeleine, east coast Ivy League girl, And her unlikely love triangle. Tiresome characters in search of a plot which finally begins to be vaguely interesting two thirds of the way through the book. An excellent handbook on how NOT to make decisions. ( )
1 vote mojomomma | Jul 20, 2014 |
He has done it again! I must say that Eugenides is a very talented author--all of his works are unique, poignant, and thought provoking. In The Virgin Suicides he tackles suicide, Middlesex hermaphrodism, and now, mental health disorders--and love.

The three main characters find themselves in a love triangle when we first meet them on their graduation day. There is Madeline, the girl who loves books and wishes to specialize in Victorian books. Leonard, a biologist who we learn is manic depressive. And Mitchell, madly in love with Madeline, but goes to India to volunteer for Mother Teresa for a year, hoping Madeline will leave Leonard and marry him.

At the start of the book, Madeline is heartbroken because, when she confessed her love to Leonard, he blew her off--and she left. Leonard, thwarted by his emotional past wasn't retreads to say those words back to her, but didn't want her to leave either--at that time he ditched his meds and had himself a bipolar bender.

He's hospitalized and she comes back to him....and they live happily ever after....NOT!! You'll just have to read it to find out what happens. You won't be disappointed, although you may hate the characters.... ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 183 (next | show all)
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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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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
First words
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:32 -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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