Title: The Marriage PlotAuthor: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Macmillian Audio
Edition: audio book and Kindle Edition
Reader: David Pittu ( very good)
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 11/1/2011
Setting: Rhode Island (mostly)
Rating: 4/5Recommend: yes
A huge fan of Jeffrey Eugenide's earlier novels, The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex, I couldn't wait to get my hands on both the eBook and audio versions of his recent release The Marriage Plot. Did I like his new novel? Yes, but.....
The Marriage Plot, for the most part takes place in Rhode Island, on the campus of Ivy League, Brown University, in 1982. Madeleine Hanna, is a pretty girl from New Jersey. Her father is a College President, and her childhood was pretty normal. At Brown she majored in English (Victorian Literature), because......."she loved books". Her senior thesis is called: "I Thought You'd Never Ask: Some Thoughts on the Marriage Plot."
Opening paragraph of the novel
" To start with, look at all the books. There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters. There were a whole lot of black-and-white New Directions paperbacks, mostly poetry by people like H.D. or Denise Levertov. There were the Colette novels she read on the sly. There was the first edition Couples, belonging to her mother, which Madeleine had surreptitiously dipped into back in sixth grade and which she was using now to provide textual support in her English honors thesis on the marriage plot. There was, in short, this mid-size but still portable library representing pretty much everything Madeleine had read in college, a collection of texts, seemingly chosen at random, whose focus slowly narrowed, like a personality test, a sophisticated one you couldn't trick by anticipating the implications of its questions and finally got so lost in that your only recourse was to answer the simple truth. And then you waited for the result, hoping for 'Artistic,' or 'Passionate,' thinking you could live with 'Sensitive,' secretly fearing 'Narcissistic' and 'Domestic,' but finally being presented with an outcome that cut both ways and made you feel different depending on the day, the hour, or the guy you happened to be dating: 'Incurably Romantic. "
The real focus of the novel, however, is not on Madeleine and her books, but rather on Madeleine and the (2) young men who are trying to win her affections. It's 1982 and all (3) are graduating from Brown, and much like today, finding a job after college will be challenging. The two men who are crazy about Madeleine are, Leonard Bankhead, who is brilliant in the classroom as well as the bedroom, he's handsome and charming as well. He also comes from a poor family in Portland, Oregon and has battled mental illness (manic depression) since his teens. The two meet in a senior semiotics seminar, and immediately hit it off.
Mitchell Grammaticus and Madeleine had met early on in freshman orientation, and have been good friends ever since. Mitchell believes he and Madeline are meant to be together. After graduation, Mitchell is off to Europe and India on a spiritual/religious journey, hoping to find himself and some meaning and direction in his life. While in India, he even volunteers at a clinic in Calcutta founded by Mother Teresa.
Over the course of the next year, Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell will face the harsh realities of the real world, and life beyond college. When they are reunited each will see life in a different light.
I liked this novel, but didn't love it. The writing is very good and the story well constructed, but yet I became a bit bored at certain sections of the novel. The portrait of Leonard's illness and his often crippling bouts of depression were very sad to read about, as was reading about Madeleine's struggle to be there for him, when he was at his worst and it was painful thing for her to witness.
This is the type of book that will definitely get mixed reviews, for a variety of different reasons; although it wasn't perfect, I'm happy I read it. The audio book reader, was new to me, but did a very good job.