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


“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.

Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #29: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

This novel is one of my sister’s favorites so I needed to check it out. While it isn’t one of mine, it isn’t bad. It was a pretty quick read, and definitely held my interest. I just had some issues with it.

The title tells you what’s going to happen in the book. There’s no surprise, really, except in how the five sisters will all take their lives by the end of the book, but the first couple of pages make it clear that they do. As a plot device, that works in this instance.

The first issue is the narrative structure – the book is told from a collective first person. The guys in town who attended school with the sisters provide all of the detail. The guys have names (well, some of them do), but the perspective is of them as a group. It’s an okay idea, but it definitely prevents anyone from taking personal responsibility for their perspective. They appear to be discussing the events years and years after they occurred, trying to figure it all out in their minds by piecing together evidence and interviews, but it’s sort of awkward.

The second issue stems from the first, and that is that because the narrative comes from a group of men, all we learn about these women is how guys see them. How they may be idealized, or put on a pedestal, or judged by their male peers seems especially cruel given the subject matter. These women are apparently only coming alive to the reader because of how some men noticed them. That’s sad to me.

Because of the above two issues I almost feel like I’m missing something. I’d love to talk about this book in a literature class to see if maybe the devices that bothered me just completely went over my head. But the further I get from the book the less I like it.

pyrajane’s review #16: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

MiddlesexBy the end of the very first paragraph we know that Cal, born Calliope, is a hermaphrodite.  She lives her life as a girl from 1960 – 1974, and then everything changes and she is born again as a teenage boy.

Middlesex is Calliope and Cal’s story.  Cal wants to get his version down before anything changes again, and he thinks something might be starting.

The book is told through three different timelines, although some might argue with me that there are only two.  Cal traces her genetic makeup back to her grandparents, then moves through to her parents and then on to everyone’s realization of that she is a hermaphrodite.  Cal is telling this story when he is in his 40′s, so these two timelines are eventually going to catch up.  However, I felt there was a third – the story of Calliope becoming Cal.  After all, that’s the story we want to know, right?  Yes, Cal wants us to understand the full story how he came to be, but deep down we just want the details of how and when Cal was born.  Who cares about the grandparents and parents?  Get to the good stuff.  At some point you know that 40-something year old Cal is going to get to the part where he is born and for me, this is the third timeline.

Read the rest of my review over on my blog.  This one was a great read.

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #4: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

virgin-suicidesYears ago, when I saw the movie The Virgin Suicides, I didn’t know it was based on a book. It was only when I read Jeffrey Eugenides’ second novel, Middlesex, that I realized his first book was
the basis for the movie. I didn’t like Middlesex, but I have to say, The Virgin Suicides is nearly perfect. It’s strange, sad, funny, engrossing, and even though it was written in 1993, timely.

If you were a fan of the movie, you’ll enjoy the book. It’s one of those rare instances when the movie and book are complementary and enhancive. Entire passages of dialogue and narration are
used to great effect in the movie, and fleeting details like hand gestures, physical descriptions and songs are made significant, translated from page to screen perfectly.

The book opens with a spoiler, of sorts. The narrator, a young neighbor and one of the many boys who is obsessed with the Lisbon family, is recounting the suicide of Cecilia, the youngest daughter. Over the next 13 months, as the parents increasingly isolate the remaining four daughters, the mystique surrounding the family grows, as does the boys’ obsession. They catalog their comings and goings, speculate on their lives based on the contents of their garbage, and spy on the girls from a bedroom window across the street. There is virtually no interaction between the boys and the Lisbon daughters until the boys are permitted to take the girls to prom, an eventful night that ultimately sets the direction for the end of the novel.

The Virgin Suicides could be called a horror story. There are certainly plenty of chilling passages and shocking events. At the same time it is a coming of age story that perfectly captures the insecurities and imaginations of young girls and the urges of young men. It is also a cautionary tale of sex and lust, and a study of the somewhat hypocritical community that initially rallies around the family but ultimately gossips and whispers and moves on to the next tragedy.

Arya of Winterfell’s #CBR5 Review #4 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Marriage PlotEarly on into reading The Marriage Plot, I registered a definite negative reaction towards the book.  I also noted to myself that I expected things to pick up and my “rating” to change.  It was Eugenides’ masterful writing that tipped me off to suspect this, despite despising what he was actually dredging up with wonderfully and thoughtfully crafted words describing the later days of an otherwise classic coming-of-age story arc.  Anyways, things did pick up – enough that I’ve placed this review in the 3 star category after all.