The Marriage Plot Ebook by Jeffrey Eugenides

October 8, 2011

The Marriage Plot Book Review

This 406 pages novel by Jeffrey Eugenides is American literary fiction about Madeleine, Mitchell, and Leonard in the early 1980s. You’ll know the plotline after read its summary below. But the whole story is so much better and so much bigger than the summary.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on October 11th 2011 The Marriage Plot is a story of trying to grow up (but not necessarily succeeding), of academia, of inequality between the sexes, of class and gender stratification, of the absurdities of literary theory in the face of literary substance, of the rise of greed in that decade, and so much more.

The Marriage Plot Summary

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 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.

One Comment

  • Read it. Just read it. It's up there with the rest of Eugenides work. It characterizes brilliantly and really investigates the mechanics of what happens inside us when we get into relationships. I loved it. and would recommend it immediately to anyone.

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