Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Marriage Plot

First read of 2012!

The Marriage Plot is the third offering from Jeffrey Eugenides. I read and loved his first, Virgin Suicides. Could not get through his second, Middlesex, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. So, when I picked up The Marriage Plot from the library, I had mixed emotions. I felt like I missed the boat on Middlesex but I could not get into it to save my life. Then, it became critically acclaimed. Go figure.

The Marriage Plot follows the love triangle of three Brown students in the 1980's. Madeleine is an English major who falls in love with Leonard Bankhead, a scientist of sorts who is also a manic depressive with a host of problems. Mitchell Grammaticus is a theology (? I can't remember) who is deeply in love with Madeleine but also knows Leonard from various intertwining social circles. What ensues is a sad story about the problems in all of their lives and relationships tailored around Austen's theory of the marriage plot.

I didn't enjoy this one bit. While I understand that it was clearly Eugenides' love letter to his alma mater, Brown, the constant minute details of the school, classes and campus really annoyed me for some reason. There were also painstaking discussions between characters on theory and other works of literature that I could not stand; and I was an English major! It was an incredibly slow read that took me more than a week to get through, not typical for 400 pages. The one tactic I did enjoy was Eugenides' storytelling in which he came back around eventually to discuss the other characters' perspectives of each situation. That being said, I didn't connect with any of the characters. In fact, I kind of hated all of them. Eugenides can write, it's just interspersed with a lot of dullness. This book made it onto a bunch of 'best' lists for 2011. Maybe I should just give up on him and trying to agree with the critics.

Rating: * *
Final Verdict: Skip it

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