Review: The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides
2011
Alfred A. Knopf Canada
978-0-307-40186-1

Set in the 1980s, The Marriage Plot follows the post-graduation lives of Madeleine, her boyfriend, Leonard, and her old friend Mitchell, who happens to be in love with her. When Madeleine and Leonard move to the Cape for his research fellowship, Leonard’s manic depression threatens to drive a wedge between them, while Madeleine tries to figure out what to do with her life after being rejected from graduate school. Meanwhile, Mitchell develops an interest in religion and sets off to Europe and then India, all the while convinced Madeleine is destined to marry him.

I decided to read this book because I had never read Eugenides before and I remember Middlesex being quite popular. I am also a fan of Jane Austen and thought the marriage plot concept of Madeleine’s thesis sounded interesting. However, this concept didn’t really play out in the novel the way I expected it to. There is a section of the book that describes Madeleine’s past romances, all of which went wrong one way or another. But the marriage plot thread seems to be dropped somewhere in the middle and then quickly resurfaces on the final page. As a former English major, reading this book reminded me of fourth-year seminars discussing literary theory, and I have to admit that is not really a time I want to go back to given how pretentious I found many of the comments made by some of my classmates. I couldn’t help but find this book a little pretentious also and I felt that it would have made more sense had I read more of the works mentioned. It was an interesting enough story but not one I would wildly recommend to others.

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