The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot

Book - 2011
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singasong70
Sep 27, 2017

Wordy.Liked it over all, re: spiritual quest however, character flirts with Christianity but does not talk about sin, forgiveness thereof; woman in Greece - about emotion in worship, not forgiveness; seeker(s) of gifts (both) not the giver which a lot of us want of course. Birth control mentioned once in the book, plenty of sex without it, consequences thereof that is.

brianreynolds Feb 21, 2017

I'll admit there were times when a little less psychology/theology/ philosophy might have improved the feast for me, but a feast it was. The three characters of the triangular romance might have lacked the heroic mantles of comic book lovers, but they were real enough, detailed enough, life-like enough that I was absorbed in their dilemmas and journeys, their foibles and humanity. Eugenides' "marriage plot" was not always comfortable or predictable, but in the end it seemed true.

s
Soundreader
Feb 18, 2017

Wow. If only books matched the reviews of people who were paid to write them. Not the case with this book. I honestly have not liked any of Eugenides books but this one is dreadful. Boring, pompous, and pointless. Written for people with an English PhD with no sense of the real world around them. Dripping with superfluous language and name dropping of authors and literary works that only those who have studied literature and English extensively will understand. Characters are boring and pointless as is the plot, or lack thereof, of this book.

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spantell
Sep 29, 2016

Only got half way through. I thought it was auto-biographical, with one character representing the author's experience as a young man. Entertaining for a while but then got dull. Character driven is fine but this is not insightful.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

Unlike Middlesex, which was very plot-centered, The Marriage Plot is almost solely character driven. If you like the three main characters—everyone else in the novel is very forgettable—you'll likely enjoy the novel. Without that connection, however, there is little else to hold onto—the plot is simple and the language fairly minimalistic. If you're a hundred pages into this novel and you hate these characters, nothing will change your mind over the next 300 pages. That's not to say that these characters are not hateable—that's part of their allure—but a reader who isn't routing for one character or another is going to find this read incredibly boring.

Add Eugenides' slightly meta fictional twist to the concept of the marriage plot and you've got a winner. No, it's not quite Middlesex, but really, did we want it to be?

d
dbrh852
Jan 13, 2016

I enjoyed Middlesex. This one, not so much. I struggled to read it through to the very end, hoping I would be rewarded with something worthy of my time. It never got better.

s
smichal
Oct 29, 2015

horrible. Can't believe that the author of The Virgin Suicides wrote this. I'm only half way thru. Not sure if I'll be able to finish it. No character is likable. They're all just miserable and boring, talking about theology, literature and philosophy 24 hours a day. Have you ever heard anybody use the words jejune and versimilitude? UGGH

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sonoraanne
Aug 04, 2015

Didn't finish, boring

d
dusyaka
Jul 21, 2015

I like this novel and couldn't stop to read it till the end. A lot of details, interesting discussions and a lot of things to think about.

l
Liselara
Jul 03, 2015

The problem that exists when academics write novels is that they must quote at least a hundred other authors to support their point. Novels aren't university essays; character and plot development is required; story matters. When an author relies heavily on other people's quotes, that tells me that they don't have an original thought in their own heads. The three characters are forgettable and this novel is downright depressing. In fact, half of the book tackles manic-deression in a lead character and shows no redeeming factors.

The cover says Eugenides is a "winner of the Pulitzer Prize" Huh? On what grounds?

According to the other reviewers, "Middlesex" is a much better novel (and the winner of the Pulitzer) so now I am off to read it.

l
Lucky_Luke
Dec 02, 2014

Love triangle, academia, mental illness - this novel has all the true markings of a great one.

l
LucasHill
Nov 16, 2014

Decent, but rather disappointing in comparison to The Virgin Suicides and, especially, Middlesex.

v
vholda225
Oct 16, 2014

Really boring. I've heard good things about his other books but this was not good. I'm about 100 pages in and the book keeps putting me to sleep. I don't like giving up on books so maybe I'll come back to it later but this is just...a bad book.

p
PCimba
Oct 07, 2014

I loved "Middlesex" so I was really looking forward to this book. After 2 attempts, I have finally given up.

p
ParnassusReads
Sep 13, 2013

As a former English major & grad student, I’m a big fan of books about academia, especially if it’s about other English majors. I finally picked up Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot after finding it in hard cover at a book warehouse sale for super cheap. The novel primarily follows Madeline, a college graduate writing her senior thesis on the 19th-century marriage plots of Jane Austen & co. At least that’s what the jacket says. What this novel is really about is living with someone who is manically depressed and the use of lithium to treat it in the 80s. In college, where the novel starts, Madeline has two suitors, one an introverted, sensitive The Marriage Plotboy named Mitchell and the other the grungy, intelligent but manic Leonard. Madeline only likes Mitchell when she needs him, and falls hopelessly in love with Leonard. Every now and then we get sections from the two boys’ perspectives; Leonard, as he sinks into depression and then as he experiments with Lithium doses, and Mitchell, as he treks across India and Europe the summer after graduating. Madeline chooses Leonard, for better or worse.

The so-called “plot” is not worthy of its allusion and is summed up nicely by Mitchell for a tidy ending, where everyone at least has the chance for happiness and no one ends up together (is that really a spoiler when you can see it coming from the second chapter?). But the novel is clearly supposed to be a character study, or a study on what mental illness in relationships can look like. The problem is that the characters are unable to carry the novel because they are almost wholly unsympathetic. Great fiction can feature unlikeable characters, as long as they are compelling or as long as the author can make the reader care about them or what happens to them in some way (or in some cases, only because the prose is just that amazing). That is not the case here. Madeline is shallow and frequently whiney, while Leonard is fairly flat and predictable, as are all of the secondary characters. Mitchell is the most interesting, but he is ultimately insufferable in his own way too.

The narrative is likewise insufferable. It’s bogged down by flashback after flashback that are supposed to reveal character and motivation, but are really only info dumps that become increasingly frustrating. The writing is pedestrian and frankly, boring. There is far too much extraneous information weighing it down. At one crucial point, when Madeline goes to check her mailbox for a Yale acceptance, Eugenides details the specific route she took for no other reason than to waste space and attempt to build anticipation. It has the opposite effect; by the time she turned left down the hallway on the right to reach the mailroom, I did not care at all what was in that mailbox. And it’s too bad too, because Madeline’s only concept of her future hinges on that one letter.

I fully admit to skipping and skimming frequently through this novel, something I rarely do. In fact, I only do it when I know that if I skip ahead, the narrative will likely be in almost the same spot, thanks to extraneous flashbacks. I really did not miss much in the 200 pages I skipped, but went back and skip-skimmed around anyway, just to be sure. The Marriage Plot is a general waste of reading time. For a real coming of age through academia and personal issues amidst privilege and opportunity, read Gloria by Keith Maillard.

Meeeeeee Sep 13, 2013

If you like to read the background of charaters then this book is for you.

n
nicolenozick
Jul 15, 2013

so disappointing esp. after middlesex. memorable only in its disappointment.

crankylibrarian Jan 14, 2013

Truly as wonderful as the reviews and its reputation suggest. 3 highly intelligent, yet flawed Brown University grads cope with their expectations for life and love, while coming to grip with their own shortcomings. A beautiful novel.

m
MelissaLKinyon
Jan 07, 2013

Ugh. The writing was beautiful and filled with fantastic detail, but I put it away halfway through because I just couldn't get behind ANY of the characters. I actually hated the three main ones and couldn't stomach spending time with them when there are so many other great characters/stories out there.

So, it's a preference thing. If you're okay with reading minute details about people you may strongly dislike in real life, then I would recommend this book. Otherwise, pass.

m
megaculpa
Dec 28, 2012

Tragic and hilarious by turns, with three compelling characters, a semester's worth of ideas and a magical sense of time and place. What more could one ask for in a novel?

thordora Nov 23, 2012

If you're expecting Middlesex, just go back and read Middlesex. I enjoyed this, but it just doesn't give me the same compelling drive to read that his previous novels did.

s
sharon711
Oct 11, 2012

A young college grad, Madeleine Hanna, pens an English lit thesis that posits people wouldn’t know how to fall in love and marry if it weren’t for novels that described this experience (See opening quote).There are two young men in her life, Leonard Bankhead, a manic depressive with whom she is in “love,” and Mitchell, a cerebral and emotional long-time friend who is in “love” with Madeleine, an emotional state he grapples with as he sorts out what he believes about god and religion. The novel follows the lives of these three people in the months after graduation as they come to terms with the direction their lives will take. Both young men are obsessed in different ways and this contrast is what gives texture to the novel.

I thought the idea of basing an entire novel on a thesis written for an English lit course is ill-conceived and, I'm afraid, a tad boring. The book takes more than 50 pages to get past a listing of novels before it tackles the main focus of the plot. I needed to be reread these pages after I finished the book, to understand properly why they are there in the first place. Literary fiction should appeal to a larger audience than people studying literature at the university level. Leonard is an interesting character, though, and his predicament fuels the book. An okay read, but not really compelling.

s
sharon711
Sep 27, 2012

A young college grad, Madeleine Hanna, pens an English lit thesis that posits people wouldn’t know how to fall in love and marry if it weren’t for novels that described this experience (See opening quote).There are two young men in her life, Leonard Bankhead, a manic depressive with whom she is in “love,” and Mitchell, a cerebral and emotional long-time friend who is in “love” with Madeleine, an emotional state he grapples with as he sorts out what he believes about god and religion. The novel follows the lives of these three people in the months after graduation as they come to terms with the direction their lives will take. Both young men are obsessed in different ways and this contrast is what gives texture to the novel.

I thought the idea of basing an entire novel on a thesis written for an English lit course is ill-conceived and, I'm afraid, a tad boring. The book takes more than 50 pages to get past a listing of novels before it tackles the main focus of the plot. I needed to be reread these pages after I finished the book, to understand properly why they are there in the first place. Literary fiction should appeal to a larger audience than people studying literature at the university level. Leonard is an interesting character, though, and his predicament fuels the book. An okay read, but not really compelling.

r
Rebschr
Sep 20, 2012

I loved this book. It was brutal at times, to read about Leonard's Manic Depression, but I thought the novel was well balanced between the characters. Madeline's character was, of the three, the more difficult to understand, but I thought she was a well-conceived privileged daughter. Essentially, the novel, to me, was about the nature of charity and love and how the two are realized in the lives of three people.

o
orphicfiddler
Aug 20, 2012

It's not Eugenides' best, but then again I've always been oddly disappointed by his novels. This one in particular had potential to resonate - after all, I'm a similarly confused recent English graduate, albeit one who dislikes Austen - but it never seemed to go much of anywhere. A year or two of mistakes to be erased, and then the characters will move on with their lives. Extremely un-momentous.


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