Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Marriage Plot

Let me begin by stating this: I love Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides.  His first novel, TVS, reads like a beautifully relaxed ode to the brevity of youth and beauty, while Middlesex (which won the Pulitzer when it was released a few years ago) is an epic saga of a family through three generations.  I've read both books multiple times, and had very high expectations of his latest tome.  I should also mention that I didn't really know what it was about before putting it on hold at my library.
The Marriage Plot follows three recent Brown grads in the early 1980s: Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell.  It's a bit of a love triangle, with Leonard and Madeleine being in love, Mitchell being in love with Madeleine, Madeleine sometimes having feelings for Mitchell.  Madeleine suffers from indecision and the usual female literary protagonist making poor relationship decisions, Leonard is manic depressive, and Mitchell can't decide where he falls with the whole religion thing.  The book follows each character through the year following graduation, through Leonard and Madeleine's foray into cohabitation and Mitchell's travels around India. 
To be quite honest, it reads like Eugenides did an update on Jane Austen.  There's a strong-ish female heroine drawn to the wrong guy before realizing it was the other she was meant to be with all along.  It's chick lit; I couldn't find anything to sink my teeth into throughout the novel.  While I have nothing against some brain candy, I was looking for more of a brain Sunday dinner- something that would have me pondering thoughts about marriage, our dreams vs. our realities after school, etc.  At over 400 pages, this book had no weight to it.  I suppose if you go in with lowered expectations, this could be a perfectly adequate novel.  For someone who believes that Jeffrey Eugenides is capable of phenomenal writing, I felt let down.

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