The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, based on other reviews I have already read, seems to be quite a polarizing book (everyone seemed to love it or be profoundly disappointed in it – with descriptors like “hideously irritating”, “overwritten”, and “pretentious”). I must admit I was a little bit nervous going into it, but I absolutely loved it. They story centers around Madeleine, college senior and writer of an English thesis involving the marriage plot perfected by English novelists. Madeleine is a typical angst-ridden college senior in the early ‘80’s, she is pursued by two men from the opposite ends of the social and emotional spectrum – Mitchell (well-read, even keeled, reliable religious major) and Leonard (manic genius, science major, from a poor, dysfunctional home). As Madeleine comes to know and love both (in different ways), we get view points from each of the characters – their motivations, backgrounds, and thoughts (and what each hopes for). So where does The Marriage Plot’s marriage plot end up? I’m not telling, but I will admit to be vaguely disappointed.
I found The Marriage Plot to be vastly entertaining – I was totally, completely absorbed by this book. One of the things I love about Jeffrey Eugenides is that, though this is his third novel, nothing about the three (The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and now The Marriage Plot) are remotely alike – except for the exceptional writing. The Marriage Plot is a stunning, delightful, if not particularly enlightening read – and although this has been considered a book only an English major would love – I would recommend it for fans of Jeffrey Eugenides and of good literature. Just don’t open the book expecting it is be an Ivy League version of Middlesex. Bottom line: 5/5, one of my favorite books I’ve read this year.