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The Marriage Plot [Paperback]

Jeffrey Eugenides
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 April 2012

The new novel from the bestselling author of Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.

Brown University, 1982. Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English student and incurable romantic, is writing her thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot – authors of the great marriage plots. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different men, intervenes.

Leonard Bankhead, brilliant scientist and charismatic loner, attracts Madeleine with an intensity that she seems powerless to resist. Meanwhile her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus, a theology student searching for some kind of truth in life, is certain of at least one thing – that he and Madeleine are destined to be together.

But as all three leave college, they will have to figure out how they want their own marriage plot to end.

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The Marriage Plot + Middlesex + The Virgin Suicides
Price For All Three: 17.14

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  • Middlesex 6.99
  • The Virgin Suicides 6.29

Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (12 April 2012)
  • Language: French
  • ISBN-10: 0007441304
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007441303
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeffrey Eugenides -- winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for Middlesex -- was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1960. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993, and has since been translated into fifteen languages and made into a major motion picture. His second novel, Middlesex, was an international bestseller. Jeffrey Eugenides is the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and The National Foundation for the Arts, a Whiting Writers' Award, and the Harold D. Vursell Award from The American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has been a Fellow of the Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the DAAD and of the American Academy in Berlin. Jeffrey Eugenides lives in Berlin.

Product Description


‘If you were ever young and thought you knew what you wanted, if you ever imagined that no one could feel such intensity of emotion as you, if you ever had your dreams dashed and your heart broken, then this is the book for you’ The Times

‘I adored The Marriage Plot … David Nicholls’ One Day with George Eliot thrown in’ Erica Wagner, The Times, Books of the Year

‘I gorged myself on The Marriage Plot’ Geoff Dyer

‘A marvellous, compulsive storyteller; he reminds us that while love may not always triumph, it follows its own wayward course to the end’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Where it excels is in pinpointing human emotions and in capturing the giddy flux of young love. As Mitchell says, “There were some books that reached through the noise of life to grab you by the collar and speak only of the truest things.” Funny, poignant and insightful, this is one of those books’ Sebastian Shakespeare

‘Immensely readable, funny and heartfelt, with instantly beguiling writing that springs effortlessly back and forth over the year’s events… it was indeed worth waiting for’ Daily Telegraph

‘Utterly engrossing … so well depicted – with wit, care and charm – that Eugenides hasn’t just raised his game, he’s changed the fictional goalposts’ Daily Mirror

‘In the generosity and and nuance of his characters and paragraphs you are reminded of the Jonathan Franzen of “The Corrections”’ Observer

‘Moving, human and challenging…subtle, pertinent narrative observations that show the work of a master of fiction at work’ Times

About the Author

Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993 to great acclaim and he has received numerous awards for his work. In 2003, Eugenides received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and France’s Prix Medicis and has sold more than 3 million copies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And Sometimes They Were Very Sad 2 Dec 2011
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Not having reading anything by Eugenides before, I was curious to discover what has made him a Pullitzer prize-winner.

This is the story of the triangular relationship between three young Americans who meet at university in the early 1980s: Madeleine, a diligent student of English literature, but lacking in a sense of direction, falls for the brilliant, charismatic but manic depressive biologist, Leonard. Meanwhile, after a brief friendship which comes to nothing, Mitchell loves her from afar, and seeks escapism in religious theory, and a circuitous journey to India to work as a volunteer for Mother Theresa.

The novel is a modern take on the "marriage plot", seen by one of Madeleine's English professors as the dominant theme of novels up to 1900, based on the idea that women could only achieve success through marrying men, ideally with money, after which they "lived happily ever after" or endured their fate, since there was no easy escape route via divorce.

The author's technical talent is displayed through some vivid and imaginative descriptions, and his sharp ear for dialogue. The recreation of the events and attitudes of the 1980s rings true, and brings back memories for those who lived through them. Many scenes are funny or poignant. In particular, the analysis of Leonard's manic depression in its various phases strikes close to the bone and often makes for unbearably painful reading.

Ironically, it is the at times almost manic nature of the writing which weakens the structure of the novel, so that the whole may seem less than the sum of the parts. Eugenides spirals off at a tangent where his imagination leads him.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genius! 7 Nov 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Like Jeffrey Eugenides' other two novels, what makes his work special is the characters in them behave exactly as you would expect people in real life to: they make mistakes, they are vulnerable, they are fallible, and in this one they are also mentally ill.

Other readers have gone through the plot so I will give that a miss, but suffice to say that if you love literature (and considering you're on a book-ordering website reading a book review, then you must do) then this is the book for you. Set in collegiate 1980's America, this book touches more on other writers than anything I've ever come across, while weaving the complicated lives of three main characters in a touching and genius way. The characters are rich and complex, almost jumping out of the page at you - one is in love. One is breaking free. One is mentally ill. The pages start to turn themselves and you block out the world just to keep reading. And the small touches the author puts in, moments where one is ashamed or embarrassed or excited, those are ones you relate to and which make you care about the character more and more. There isn't a great deal of action, per se, in the book and yet you finish it feeling like you've run a marathon.

Brilliant writing. I had pre-ordered it and knew I wouldn't be sorry, and sure enough I wasn't.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere near as good as Middlesex 1 Nov 2011
The Marriage Plot disappointed me. Perhaps it's unfair to compare anything to a book as sublime as Middlesex but Jeffrey Eugenides set that bar so very high. As you will expect he remains a wonderful writer but unfortunately the plot of this novel is somewhat prosaic and the characters do not elicit much empathy. I simply didn't care what happened to them. It's an easy read and satisfying to a degree - just not much depth or originality. I couldn't find anything in the characters or the storyline that I haven't come across elsewhere in a more compelling setting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Torn between two lovers 13 Nov 2011
Jeffrey Eugenides' third novel features Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell, three students at an Ivy League university in the early 1980s. The title of the book pays homage to the theme of many of Madeleine's favourite 19th century classics, ie a young woman pursued by two very different suitors and having to choose between them.

For me Madeleine was the least interesting and well developed character. Mitchell and Leonard seemed to have greater depth (and spend a lot less time wallowing in self-pity, even though they have more reason to). After finishing college and being spurned by Madeleine, Mitchell sets off on a gap year journey of self-discovery which takes him across Europe and into India, strengthening his interest in religion and mysticism and generally turning him into nicer and more grounded person. Leonard fares less well; the bipolar disorder which he suffered from in his teens resurfaces with a vengeance and I found the descriptions of his manic and depressive episodes and, once medicated, his existence in a zombie-like state very moving:

"The proof that Lithium stabilises one's mood was confirmed every time Leonard saw himself naked in the mirror and didn't kill himself. He wanted to. He thought he had every right but he couldn't work up the requisite self-loathing".

It's always a bit daunting to read a new novel by the author of one of your all time favourites, and I didn't find The Marriage Plot as immediately engaging or engrossing as Middlesex, mainly because I struggled with the first section which focuses heavily on Madeleine's studies in literary theory and philosophy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A struggle to finish
This was so boring I barely managed to finish it. It was definitely far too long. I am the same age and in the same position (graduating university) as the main characters and I... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Cece de la Vela
3.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant read
Not as good as Middlesex by the same author, a lighthearted voyage trough the themes of teen and young adult relationships, anxieties, weddings and failed couplings... Read more
Published 13 days ago by FM
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not Eugenides' best
Madeline is in the final year of a literature degree. She's reading classic authors and writing her thesis on the use of the marriage plot in the novel, a topic seen as seriously... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sam
3.0 out of 5 stars The disease of our time
It's nothing to fuss about unless you can be enraptured by the tales of the bourgeois, in which case are accurately depicted. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Renata Lopes Vincent
2.0 out of 5 stars struggled
I really struggled to finish this book, I gave up reading it several times but stuggled on only because it was a gift. The story is dull, long-winded and boring. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MissAnnThrop
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear, what happened?
I loved Middlesex and the Virgin Suicides, I can't see how the same author, who wrote with such subtlety and intelligence, and crafted rich and likeable characters could write this... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lily Emery
4.0 out of 5 stars The Marriage Plot delivers!
I love Jeffrey Eugenides' writing and his ability to juxtapose complex concepts in a narrative. I loved his first book and can't wait to read more!
Published 3 months ago by Adele
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
Having read Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides (and loved them) I bought this book despite the plot premise not sounding too promising. I only got as far as page 63. Read more
Published 6 months ago by H
1.0 out of 5 stars Trivial, naive and pretentious but trying to be intellectual and...
It's Jeffrey Eugenides so I really was optimistic about this one. Unfortunately even though "The Marriage Plot" has its moments, most of the time it's so incredibly trivial that... Read more
Published 6 months ago by coveredinskin
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring
I felt that this was like an intellectual Mills and Boon. I didn't like any of the characters and was very bored by the story line. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Catherine Strickland
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