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The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

I read Middlesex and love it – in fact I lent it to someone and they never returned it (don’t you hate that?) Anyway, that mean I was keen to read The Marriage Plot doubly so because I’m also keen on 19th century literature.

Here is the blurb …

 Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn’t get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot: purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. Madeleine was the girl who dressed a little too nicely for the taste of her more Bohemian friends, the perfect girlfriend whose college love life, despite her good looks, hadn’t lived up to expectations.

But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course “to see what all the fuss is about,” and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same. Not after she falls in love with Leonard Morton – charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Oregon boy – who is possessed of seemingly inexhaustible energy and introduces her to the ecstasies of immediate experience. And certainly not after Mitchell Grammaticus – devotee of Patti Smith and Thomas Merton – resurfaces in her life, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

The triangle in this amazing and delicious novel about a generation beginning to grow up is age-old, and completely fresh and surprising. With devastating wit, irony, and an abiding understanding of and love for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides resuscitates the original energies of the novel while creating a story so contemporary that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

The author of two beloved novels, Middlesex (bestselling winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, with more than 3 million copies sold) and the now classic The Virgin Suicides (made into a haunting film by Sofia Coppola), is back – with a brilliant, funny, and heartbreaking novel about the glories and vicissitudes of young love.

This novel is beautifully (and very cleverly) written – it is indeed a modern novel with a marriage plot. What really stuck with me, however, was Leonard’s mental illness. The incredible highs with almost superhuman energy and enthusiasm and the plunging depths of the lows. I feel I have a much greater understanding now after reading Leonard’s point of view. I also enjoyed Mitchell’s search for meaning in his life; religion, good works etc. The characters were clever and interesting and I wanted to know what happened to them.

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