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The Marriage Plot Paperback – 12 Apr 2012
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‘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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None of the three main characters are particularly likeable and at times the book gets bogged down in literary theory, philosophy, science and religious theory. Leonard is brilliant but a manic depressive, something which colours the entire book. The portrayal of his illness is convincing and shows the knife edge of pharmaceutical dosage needed to maintain a healthy mental balance. Leonard yo-yo’s back and forth, coping and not coping, at times allowing his manic tendencies to win. Madeleine accuses him of liking being depressed all the time. Mitchell is the idealistic one who goes to India to work for Mother Theresa’s Calcutta hospice and confronts some unpalatable truths. In comparison, Madeleine seems rather spoiled. Both men dote on her however and this is the spine which holds the story together: who will Madeleine finally choose?
Eugenides describes mundane things so beautifully. “Outside, the temperature, which had remained cold through March, had shot up into the fifties. The resulting thaw was alarming in its suddenness, drainpipes and gutters dripping, sidewalks pudding, streets flooded, a constant sound of water rushing downhill.” Simple writing at its best. But at other times the writing feels manic and not just in Leonard’s sections. There is an authorial indulgence with many clever asides from the plot and characters. I soon learned to read these parts slightly out-of-focus, not worrying for example that I didn’t grasp Leonard’s sections on yeast or Mitchell’s constant references to ‘Something Beautiful for God’, Malcolm Muggeridge’s book about Mother Theresa. The last third of the book passed much quicker than the first two.
‘The Marriage Plot’ is ambitious, as ‘Middlesex’ was, and rightly so, but is perhaps the inevitable ‘difficult’ book after such a huge success. This will not deter me from reading Eugenides again.
It lost the plot after the first quarter or so of the book. There was too much of Eugenides doing his autobiography (India, Detroit etc).
He's also careless. The Globe Theatre in London was opened in 1997 so how did one of his characters visit it more than 15 years previously?
I have some of his other novels. Now I don't know whether to bother or give them to a charity shop!
Still reading it; still enjoying it.