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The Marriage Plot (2011)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,7292681,779 (3.51)255
Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn't get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot. But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course to see what all the fuss is about, and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 254 (next | show all)
Really thought this would be in my wheelhouse. Overeducated college kids. Sly digs at the expense of pompous semioticians. But the characters never grabbed me and I did not care all that much what happened to them... ( )
  Dreyfusard | Sep 9, 2021 |
Jeffrey Eugenides' work has been on my literary radar for several years now, probably because he's gotten so much good press. And now, having read THE MARRIAGE PLOT (2011), I can see why. Eugenides is just a damn good writer. But his style, his "setting-up" of the storyline and the presenting of his characters' back stories, can be so complex and dense with details and data, that it can be intimidating and frustrating to the reader. In fact I almost gave up on this book about halfway through it, thinking, C'MON, will ya? Get on with the STORY! And thank goodness, he finally did, albeit still sticking with his particular ornate style and frequent forays off to the side. Because at its heart, the plot is a fairly simple one. It's a love triangle set in the early 1980s between three newly minted college graduates of Brown - Leonard, Madeline and Mitchell, all incredibly gifted and intelligent. Then throw some mental illness into the mix, Leonard's manic depression, the fly in the ointment of his scientific genius and the charisma that draws Madeline, a "Victorianist" lit major. And there's Mitchell, a student of comparative religion with a chronic unrequited crush on Madeline, who travels to India where he volunteers in Mother Teresa's hospital for the dying. So we have then a thick, rich stew of science, history, world religions, literature, other cultures ad more. There's even a quick course on the sex life of yeast, as Leonard explains it to Madeline's Brahmin mother when she intrudes into his summer fellowship lab work on Cape Cod. So THE MARRIAGE PLOT is, basically an "it's complicated" kind of love story of the eighties, a 400-page opus that really gets rolling in the second half. I'm glad I stuck with it. And I loved the ending. Very highly recommended. (I think I have an old copy of MIDDLESEX around here somewhere. I'll keep it handy for the next time I have a Eugenides itch.)

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Aug 29, 2021 |
Enjoyable read. A novel. Kind of wierd. Novel end left me feeling like, "Why did I read this book?" Didn't really learn anything new - except a little about depression, ( )
  avdesertgirl | Aug 22, 2021 |
Ugh... why? Jeffrey Eugenides' first book was about five suicidal sisters. His second was a Bildungsroman about an intersex person. His third is about... college grads trying to decide what to do with their lives. Gah, if I wanted a book like that, I'd write my memoirs. (And be completely unsurprised when no one read them.)

First we meet Madeleine, an English major at Brown University. She is a bit of an oddity because a) she likes to read and b) she likes "unfashionable" authors like Austen, James, Eliot, and Wharton. She is very attractive, as evidenced by the men around her finding her attractive. Eugenides spends pages and pages trying to convince you how special Madeleine is. (One sign is that she uses looseleaf tea instead of teabags.) The resulting portrait is of a pretty, sweet, naive, and dull young woman.

Despite being graced with more personality, the two male leads are not much better. Leonard is a budding scientist struggling with bipolar disorder. While his disease certainly makes him more sympathetic, it is no excuse for the way he treats Madeleine. (Madeleine pretty much puts up with his emotional abuse because the sex is so great.) Mitchell, a religious studies major, is a typical Nice Guy - the guy who becomes friends with you because he wants to fuck you. Unlike most love triangles, there is no reason to "ship" one pairing over the other.

The worst offense The Marriage Plot commits is that it has absolutely nothing new to say. I really hope that Eugenides didn't think he was being transgressive with the ending, where Madeleine rejects both suitors and goes to graduate school. The only way that ending would have been revolutionary is if it had happened in The Twilight Saga. ( )
  doryfish | Aug 20, 2021 |
Eugenides siempre me convence, salvo cuando habla de política, pero a lo mejor eso es porque yo estoy un poco susceptible. Muy recomendable ( )
  Orellana_Souto | Jul 27, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 254 (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
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn't get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot. But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course to see what all the fuss is about, and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same.

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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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