The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (September 4, 2012)
Amazon Book Description: 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?
It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, 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 studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes—the charismatic and intense Leonard Bankhead, and her old friend the mystically inclined Mitchell Grammaticus. As all three of them face life in the real world they will have to reevaluate everything they have learned.
Reading Sara Review: Well, you can tell by my rating that this wasn’t my favorite book of all time – and I guess it is safe to say that it is my second least favorite book that I have read in 2015 thus far. My least favorite did not even get finished, so will likely never get a review, but this one – this one I kept holding out hope for, hoping that it would get better, have more of a point to the plot, and make me feel something – anything- besides total boredom. Spoiler alert: it did not.
This book reminded me of The Interestings, by Meg Wolizter – basically a book that thinks its characters are way more interesting than they actually are. I thought that Madeline was snobby, Mitchell was actually a bit interesting – but completely self-absorbed, and Leonard ended up being possibly the only unselfish one of the bunch, though it took him a long time to become that (and he certainly had his own battles to fight, which was a piece of the story that I actually did like).
I was excited to read this book. As a fan of Austen, Gaskill, and Eliot myself – I loved the idea of looking at the marriage as a plot – an end goal – and watching young Madeline find love. I did not expect chic-lit per se, but I did expect a little more fun, characters that were relatable and fun to watch grow up to make mistakes. I wanted to be invested in this book, but just never became so. There were so many times that I would look down at my Kindle hoping that I was over half-way finished, because then maybe something would happen that would make this book memorable.
On the positive side, the writing was actually really great and I enjoyed the style that the story was told. That it was set in the 1980s was interesting, actually, it took me awhile to grasp the time frame (realizing that people did not have cell phones was a pretty strong clue to the decade). I do think that things were different then, not necessarily easier or harder, but certainly different. Communication between people was certainly more complicated, especially when letters are not received, or people are not at home to answer their phones.
I felt like Eugenides tried to salvage the book at the end, and bring us back to the “Marriage Plot” concept – but it was too late for me. There was no redemption because this book was not as great as the classic nineteenth century love stories that it claims to be. Clearly other people disagree with my analysis, and I would love to hear other opinions, if you have read it!