It's the early 1980s - the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to the Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.
As Madeleine tries to understand why "it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in eighteenth century France," real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead - charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy - suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old "friend" Mitchell Grammaticus - who's been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange - resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.
Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can't escape the secret responsible for Leonard's seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.
Perhaps it is my affinity for English majors, or perhaps it was Eugenides's embrace of realism and a character-driven plot, but the pages of this novel flew by, despite the book's respectable heft. It is neither a breezy, beachy romance novel nor an intricate, challenging tome, but is balanced squarely between those two poles. Producing a work that is equal parts pleasure and intellectual debate, as the author has done, is as difficult as it is admirable. Eugenides is one of the few literary novelists with a large following and a great amount of popularity among American readers, and The Marriage Plot serves as another example of why his work is so enjoyable. (Reviewed by Elizabeth Whitmore Funk).
Starred Review. [The Marriage Plot] so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success... the central argument of the book is also its solution: the old stories may be best after all, but there are always new ways to complicate them.
This extraordinary, liquidly written evocation of love's mad rush and inevitable failures will feed your mind as you rapidly turn the pages. Highly recommended.
Starred Review. Dazzling work - Eugenides continues to show that he is one of the finest of contemporary novelists.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Disappointing This novel is not what I was expecting. A review on the back cover states that this is "a grand romance in the Austen tradition." I didn't find that to be true, but I certainly found elements (like vulgar language and explicit sex) that... Read More
Rated of 5
by Gena S Different but Good The Marriage Plot is a very different book to Eugenides’ Middlesex, but very good – a deeper, more complex read. This may not be a book you’ll love from page one but if you give it time, and don’t let yourself get put off by the pseudo-literary... Read More
Rated of 5
by Diane S. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides Didn't like this nearly as much as I thought I would. There was quite a lot of talking about literature and theory as well as criticism so one would think I would devour it. This was so not the case, it was rather dry and the characters were not... Read More
Madeleine Hanna, heroine of The Marriage Plot, is enthralled with the tidy, thoughtful novels of the nineteenth century. Here are three prominent Victorian writers and information about their literary styles that will make the experience of reading Eugenides's story all the more pleasurable.
George Eliot (1819-1880)
Born with the name Mary Ann Evans, Eliot took a masculine pen name in the hopes that her fiction would be treated seriously by Victorian readers. Her seven novels, among them Middlemarch, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner, are noted for their flawed, imperfect characters and protagonists. Most of her novels take place in the rural English countryside and contend with religious and social issues.
Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. An indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.
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Oldest romance writer in the world dies aged 105. Books #124 and #125 to be published next year(Dec 10 2013) Ida Pollock, author of more than 120 books, and believed to be the world's oldest romantic novelist, has died at the age of 105.