The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Gail Reid (05/05/13): The Marriage Plot is the story of three Brown University seniors in the early eighties who are graduating and transitioning toward the next steps in their lives.

Madeleine is an academic English major who studies and loves the Victorian stories of Jane Austen. Madeleine meets Leonard, a brilliant but guarded science student, in a semiotics class and much of their romance is wrapped up in intellectual discourse. When Leonard's diagnosis of manic depression becomes apparent, Madeleine is committed to caring for him.

Mitchell, the third student, a religious studies major with no fixed career path, heads to India to volunteer at Mother Theresa's mission and experience religion that he has read about and excelled in understanding at school.

Mitchell has loved Madeleine since sophomore year but her complex relationship with Leonard is all consuming. Has Madeleine fallen for the wrong suitor? (Is this a Victorian novel in disguise?) Or is Mitchell's platonic friendship more valuable to a young woman whose life is in upheaval?

In case it is not obvious, this book is very much about character development and less so on plot. The book is wordy and talky but the characters are so incredibly well rendered that you feel you know them. This is the same brilliant writing that Eugenides exhibited in his book Middlesex ten years ago.

I found the novel to be very intellectually challenging and liked it alot, but the book is dense. Lots of perceptive conversations on arcane topics by very academic people can sometimes be tedious. Not for everyone's taste. Rating: ****

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