The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

What this book is about:

I was excited when I finally received this book from the library! Hurray for holds!

This is a coming of age novel about three young people in a lover’s triangle. Here’s the triangle: Madeleine has fallen in love with a man named Leonard.  Mitchell, who met Madeleine in the first year of university, has loved and pined after Madeleine for years. The unfortunate thing about Leonard is that he is manic-depressive. The unfortunate thing about Mitchell is that Madeleine doesn’t think he is “man”enough for her.

The relationship between Madeleine and Leonard is strained because of Leonard’s worsening condition. Mitchell, unable to woo Madeleine, leaves the country to find spiritual peace and personal significance.  The three have just graduated and have their futures looming over their heads.

Madeleine vows to nurse Leonard to complete mental health. After a break down, Leonard, in his vulnerability, realizes that he loves Madeleine  and fears she may leave him. He starts taking his medication again, which means that he loses his virility, energy, and intelligence. With his meds he’s not the person Madeleine fell in love with.

Mitchell travels around Europe and India for  the better part of a year, feeling hopeless because the love of his life, Madeleine, is in love with Leonard. His travels are soul-searching, and he finds himself eventually in Calcutta working at Mother Teresa’s Calcutta Centre. He comes home and finds Madeleine in the middle of her own crisis with Leonard. I won’t spoil the ending.

Read It?

This book had a bizarre and unique quality to it.  I felt content to place this one down in the evenings before bed, and yet I still picked it up every chance I could. I am trying to pinpoint why.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed Eugenides’ Middlesex. It was a big story with big heart and big characters! I think Eugenides is a brilliant story writer, his characters are unforgettable, and his plots are unpredictable. He also has an endearing quality of using interesting rants that fit in with the plot perfectly.  It’s sort of like listening to a like-minded uncle ramble on.

This book is funny. There were several moments of LOLing and smirking. There are lots of intelligent moments too; at times it felt like I was reading a nonfiction article. Madeleine sees the world most clearly through story lines and books she’s read.  When she falls in love with Leonard, she thinks along the framework of the literary theory. The novel’s several diatribes explore the love plots of works of literature. 

Eugenides uses these rants to see if we still think of love and marriage in the same terms. Do the lingering Jane Austen dreams of women my age (sigh…I’m so in love with Mr. Darcy) change the way we think about love? Is this what we aspire to in our relationships? This theme was subtle, though, and I’m not certain that he really revealed anything new to me.

The Marriage Plot is long. It might be intimidating, but I still think some people might really enjoy it. The characters are subtle, but the development of each is thorough and fresh. They are prototypical characters but endearing because they are honest and heartening.

The ending is fresh and unsatisfying, in a way that life often is.



If you like this story, why not read some of my other posts:

Touch, by Alexi Zentner (or WHY I READ)

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

The Birth House by Ami McKay

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