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The Marriage Plot (2011)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,9652781,871 (3.51)268
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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» See also 268 mentions

English (262)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (3)  German (3)  French (2)  Danish (1)  All languages (276)
Showing 1-5 of 262 (next | show all)
Literary novel about three twenty-somethings before, during, and just after graduating from Brown University in the 1980s. Madeleine is in love with Leonard, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Mitchell is in love with Madeleine. Madeleine views Mitchell purely as a friend. Madeleine is majoring in nineteenth century literature. Leonard is studying biology. Mitchell’s focus is on philosophy and religious studies.

The storyline follows the lives of these three main characters. The structure is unusual. It begins in the middle (at university) and then relates what happened to each character before and after. Madeleine’s section documents a privileged young woman who lacks direction. Leonard’s section provides the reader a glimpse of what it might be like to live with bipolar disorder. Mitchell’s section portrays a search for deeper meaning through travels and religion.

This book is all over the place. It contains lots of ingredients, probably too many – relationship dynamics, religion, mental health, sex, college life, career choices, intellectual sparring, finding oneself, and growing up. There are a few esoteric diversions into semiotics and the reproductive habits of yeast. Mother Theresa even makes an appearance.

It is purportedly a modern update to the nineteenth century novels (Jane Austen, Henry James) that contained a “marriage plot” where the goal for a woman of the time was to get married. But this theme is ignored through large portions of this novel. To me, it was more about the impact of mental illness on a relationship.

I had previously read Middlesex and loved it, so I had high expectations. This book is much less successful. I enjoyed the literary references but the updating of the “marriage plot” to today’s world did not quite work for me.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
I liked this book a lot. I like the structure of the book...how we follow Madeleine's story for awhile, then we jump over to Leonard's story, and also over to Mitchell's story. I love how Mitchell's inner thoughts are full of exclamation points!!!

The book contains books, and books, and more books, college, science, religion, love, sex, alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. Manic-depression to be exact.

The ending was satisfying and perfect.

I also loved Eugenides other book [b:Middlesex|2187|Middlesex|Jeffrey Eugenides|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1437029776l/2187._SY75_.jpg|1352495]. I need to see what other books he's written. ( )
  Jinjer | Aug 12, 2022 |
I thoroughly enjoyed the intelligence of this book. While delving deep into Theosophy and madness, or the pain of love and lust -- it taught me about science, religion, and literature -- and gave me something to ponder. Losing control, yearning for love, searching for enlightenment, or simply finding balance, it's the journey of learning that is the most interesting. ( )
  ninam0 | Jun 22, 2022 |
Fascinating depth of character through the first about 200 pages, and then he stagnates. Maybe the three main characters' catharses are subtle and understated, more generously. The book is very well read, however, and constant allusions and critiques make the reading engaging. Eugenides also dances around the feminist movement in a way that I'm not convinced isn't mysoginist. The author can really fall into his characters; self-involved, privilaged undergraduates in the eighties, in this case. Maybe I've never been a fan of the Victorian marraige novels, even if it is a modern one with a modern ending. Still, his prose is thoughful and well wrought, and he describes modern Greece perfectly in a single paragraph, for which I will always respect him. ( )
  MaryJeanPhillips | Jun 22, 2022 |
Jeffrey Eugenides writes well but for a while, it was hard to see where the story is going. Turns out that it is an old-fashioned love triangle with loaded themes like mental illness, feminism, and spirituality. 0.5 stars for the depiction of depression, and how tough it is for the patient and family members. ( )
  siok | May 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 262 (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)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugenides, Jeffreyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pittu, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Асланян, АннаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For the roomies,
Stevie and Moo Moo
First words
To start with, look at all the books.
Quotations
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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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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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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Average: (3.51)
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