Books in the Club: Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot

That left a large contingent of people majoring in English by default. Because they weren't left brained enough for science, because history was too dry, philosophy too difficult, geology too petroleum-oriented and math too mathematical-- because they weren't musical, artistic, financially motivated, or really all that smart, these people were pursuing university degrees doing something no different from what they'd done in first grade: reading stories.  English was what people who didn't know what to major in majored in.

Oh Eugenides.  So snarky.  The Marriage Plot is a wonderful book.  I'll start off with that.  It was also the second pick for my book club, and we all just really enjoyed reading it, so I found myself playing devil's advocate a little bit while we discussed.  Being an English major, there is a great insider feeling while reading this book.  There are some very accurate portrayals of a certain kind of intellectualism that is both pretentious and exciting for those of us who would really, actually choose to spend an afternoon (certainly not MANY afternoons, but one or two:)) reading Derrida. Also, I got to read it on vacation in Europe, mostly on trains.  And the writing is good, really good, while also being impressively different from Middlesex.

Eugenides is a great storyteller and artist of character.  His three protagonists, recent college graduates all -- Leonard, Mitchell, and Madeline --  share a sort of delightful, but frustrating naivete.  And the experienced reader is in on it, of course.  She knows that there will be pain, although the characters seem both woefully and willfully oblivious.

So, what was I playing devil's advocate about?  Two things:

1. The pacing is strange.  I've read this other places.  There is a lot of building of the characters and relationships in the book. This building lasts for many many (albeit delightful) pages.  The plot centers around the coming of age of the three characters, and the "love triangle" (although I don't really want to call it that), which they find themselves amidst.  Then, the  resolution to all that build  is really only a few pages.  And I felt slightly let down by that.
2. Madeline.  It wasn't that I didn't like her.  I could even relate to her.  However, I wanted her to be more.  I wanted a little bit of the Jane Austen heroine spunk, which just wasn't there.

But that's it.  And I won't end on a negative note about this book.  Instead I will say:

Please Jeffrey Eugenides, don't take another nine years to write the next one.

Title: The Marriage Plot
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
 Publisher: FSG
Date: 2011
Genre: Literary Fiction, Wonderfulness

406 pages.
Where I got it: Bought it twice- new and used (so I could write in one)
Challenges: Mount TBR Challenge


  1. I had a hard time getting in to if for the first maybe 100 pages, but then I was hooked. While I don't want him whipping them out as fast as Nick Sparks, I could definitely use one a new book every four or so years...

    1. Right? He says in interviews that it won't be as long of a wait this time. I hope not.

  2. I got this for Christmas but I loved Virgin Suicides and Middlesex so much that I've been scared to read it in case it isn't as good!

    1. It is good! I was a little nervous too. I still have The Virgin Suicides to read.

  3. Looking forward to reading this novel one of these days (famous last words). :D

    1. You should. I have shelves full of "somedays..."

  4. YES to being impressively different to Middlesex! I love when an author writes books that are completely different from each other (and The Virgin Suicides is really different too, although I didn't like that) and they're both/all completely awesome. I feel like it proves something extra special about them or something :)

    1. Interesting that you didn't like Virgin Suicides. It's the one I'm the least excited to read. I've seen the movie (and love it) and I don't really like reading books when I've seen the movie. I'm going to suck it up one of these days and read it though.


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