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  • Published: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
  • Year Published: 2011
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Description: 406 p. ; 24 cm.
  • Language: English
  • Format: Book

ISBN/Standard Number

  • 9780374203054
  • 0374203059

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The marriage plot

by Eugenides, Jeffrey.

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Where To Find It

Call number: Fiction

Additional Details

Madeleine Hanna breaks out of her straight-and-narrow mold when she falls in love with charismatic loner Leonard Bankhead, while at the same time an old friend of hers resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is his destiny.

Community Reviews

Couldn't stand it

I have nothing nice to say about this book, so feel very free not to bother reading this review. I ONLY finished this book because it is my book club's July title and I needed to get it back to the library.

Thing I hated #1, a personal gripe: This was yet another book written by an English major almost solely for English majors. It's about an English major at the end of her college career, referencing all the personal in-group commentary that will have other English majors saying "Oh, yes... uh, huh... oh, of course...." (I am referring to excessive obscure books, literary stylistic and genre references, the reasons why people ended up in this major and what they will do next, and more.)

That's well and good, and lovely for your audience of former English majors and those few others who read the same vast reading lists as college English departments required. The rest of us do. not. care.

Thing I hated #2: I heard an NPR interview once in which an author said, "A story is when something happens, and therefore something changes." Well, in this book, NOTHING HAPPENS and NOTHING CHANGES. The whole book is a series of tiny little next steps in people's lives in which no one really seems to make any decisions, but rather just goes along with the next thing in front of them. No decision, nothing really happens, and nothing really changes. So where the heck is the story?!? Why bother reading the book?

Thing I hated #3: So maybe it's actually a romance of sorts? There are moments when it feels like it might want to be, that it might be trying to lead to some sort of "happily ever after." I heard a great reviewer give an excellent rubric for judging romances: "There is conflict within each of the hero and heroine, between the hero and heroine, and between the hero/heroine and the world." Ummm... pretty much fails on all counts, so must not be a romance.

Thing I hated #4: At about 7/8ths of the way through the book (really!) I thought, "Oh, thank God, at least it stopped being incestuously written for English majors." And then the last page and especially the last line of the whole friggin' book is a never-explained secret in-joke for English majors.

Oh, please. Spare me. What a waste of my time.

Not Bad

A friend said she had a hard time getting into this because the character of Madeline was just so unlikeable. I hadn't really thought about it until that point, but she's right. It is an unlikeable character, but somehow you still manage to sympathize with her. She's human, she was raised the way she was raised, and she's very young. Things always seemed so black and white in our early 20s, and I think this book does a good job of depicting that strange "now it's time to grow up" time in our lives. Leonard was unlikeable too, but again, it wasn't something he could help; he had his own struggles. Even Mitchell had his faults, and really, isn't that a sign of a good writer? A well-crafted character development? The characters had a realism to them that I enjoyed. And the plot really flowed, winding up surprisingly unpredictably which I liked. I think Eugenides set out to write a modern marriage plot novel, and I think he very much succeeded.

Not Eugenides' best

I would rate the first half 4 stars, not so much for the plot or the sad sack characters but for the engaging and sharp writing. But the last half is a bit of a let-down (I swear I felt Eugenides' interest waning) and only 3 stars.

Don't expect it to be Middlesex because it isn't.

No Thanks

I agree with BAM on this, and I'm not just sucking up because she's awesome. I too read/loved Middlesex but could not connect to The Marriage Plot.

Middlesex had a few slow patches in the storyline, but the writing was eloquent to the point that you hardly noticed. The Marriage Plot has me loathing every last character from the moment they are introduced and the writing style feels choppy and forced. What was lyrical and introspective in Middlesex feels forced and overthought in this book. Some of the phrasing is hard to take.

Example: "What's the matter? Didn't you hear the bell?" It was Alton's voice, as deep and commanding as ever, despite the fact that it was issuing from a tiny speaker.
"Sorry," Madeleine said. "I was in the shower."
"Likely story. Will you let us in, please?"

While there is nothing technically wrong with that exchange, I hate it. The entire story reads like that. Maybe if I managed to finish the book it would rival Middlesex, but I highly doubt it.

If anyone out there makes it through this and loves it, submit a review about what you liked about it.

Didn't Love It

I found myself reading this book just to see where it was going, not because I was particularly interested in the characters. I appreciated the attempt made to explain Leonard's bi-polar disorder, both by Leonard's account and by the omniscient narrator. This helped me to understand why Madeleine found him attractive. Otherwise, I couldn't relate to her attraction to him at all. Nor could I relate to the self-centered nature of all the characters, really. Unlike Middlesex, which I couldn't put down, the Marriage Plot was light on plot.

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