Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #72: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

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“But, like anyone in love, Madeleine believed that her own relationship was different from every other relationship, immune from typical problems.”

I tried so hard to like this book. I liked The Virgin Suicides, and Middlesex is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. But when a 400 page long novel takes me over a week to read because I just don’t feel like picking it up, then something is wrong.
The “marriage plot” that the title refers to is the idea that the great English novels all end in a marriage — “and they lived happily ever after”. Eugenides’s aim, and by extension, his main character’s, is to see if a novel can be written about marriage in a day and age where premarital sex and prenuptial agreements are the norm. I’m sure this can be done, but this book is not a great example.
The big problem is how unlikeable the characters are. Well, two out of the three. The novel focuses on Madeleine, a rather spoiled college student who loves Jane Austen. Madeleine is in love with Leonard, who has some…issues. Then there’s Mitchell, who’s in love with Madeleine and treats his heartache by traveling to Europe to explore his thoughts on religion and work with Mother Theresa. Mitchell, I liked. I just couldn’t understand his obsession with Madeleine, who made me CRAZY with her wishywashyness that ended only with her obsession with the brooding Leonard.
I think there was a good book with good ideas somewhere instead the Marriage Plot, but I just couldn’t find it.

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3 thoughts on “Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #72: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

  1. I actually read Eugenides in reverse, so I read this first, and *Virgin Suicides* last. I can totally understand your response, and had I read *Middlesex* before *Marriage Plot*, I’d probably have written a similar review. I will say, though, Eugenides’ “By the Book” interview with the New York Times put this book into perspective for me. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/07/books/review/jeffrey-eugenides-by-the-book.html?_r=0 Knowing that he had *The Portrait of a Lady* in mind helped me understand what he was doing in *Marriage Plot.* Of course, if the characters are mostly asshats, it doesn’t make the reading more pleasurable. 🙂

    • Thanks for the link. That’s pretty interesting. Still doesn’t make me like Madeleine and Leonard any more than I did, but I think I understand them in the context of the novel a bit better now =)

  2. Your review encapsulates my sentiments exactly, though I’m not sure I even liked Mitchell all that much either. He has sh*** taste in women. I think having read Middlesex (it’s one of my all-time favorites) can ruin future Eugenides – especially since he took a decade to write this one and my expectations were so high. I saw him do a reading on tour with this one and he does really well at getting you interested. If he’d read the whole thing aloud to me and answered questions after this would have been better.

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