by Jeffery Eugenides
“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.
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.” (Book description according to Good Reads)
Book was printed in: 2011
I read the book: July 2012 (Review is also from 2012)
What got me to read this book was that I had really enjoyed “Middlesex”. I was a little disappointed with this for I was expecting it to be as interesting as “Middlesex”. It was cleverly written like “Middlesex” was but not nearly as exciting.
The story is told by three character view points- Mitchell, Madeleine, and Leonard. Their story is a more modern version of the Marriage Plots which Madeleine writes her senior thesis on.
Mitchell was my favorite of the three main characters. He really had a story that was separate from Leonard and Madeline’s. I felt bad for him though I think he probably made the right choices in the end. This wasn’t too surprising because out of the three characters he seemed to be the one who had the most common sense.
I just didn’t like Madeliene’s choices that she made as far as the main plot went. I could relate to her though as a college student interested in English and reading but after that I really couldn’t.
Leonard was probably the most difficult character to follow. Though there were times when I could sympathize with him and other times when I just couldn’t because of the way he treated Madeleine. I was surprised that she was able to stay with him as long as she does.
Though I liked “Middlesex” better than “The Marriage Plot”, I’m still excited to read more by Jeffery Eugenides. “The Virgin Suicides” is next on my list.
My Rating: 2.5 Stars (Good Reads only allows full star ratings but this was between a two and three for me)