Skip to content

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides: 1001 Book Review

marriageplot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
First published: 2011
Reviewed by: Jen & Book Worm
Find it here: The Marriage Plot

Synopsis (from Amazon): Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce?

It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes—the charismatic and intense Leonard Bankhead, and her old friend the mystically inclined Mitchell Grammaticus. As all three of them face life in the real world they will have to reevaluate everything they have learned. Jeffrey Eugenides creates a new kind of contemporary love story in “his most powerful novel yet” (Newsweek

Jen’s Review: 5 stars
I loved this book for a variety of reasons. It was well-written with a blend of humor, empathy, and psychological insight that I found impressive. What Eugenides has done with this novel is perfectly capture the atmosphere of an Ivy League school and it’s alums in the 1980s. In some ways Eugenides mocks the pretentiousness of the Ivy league college environment and forces his characters to face up to the reality of life outside of books.

“College wasn’t like the real world. In the real world people dropped names based on their renown. In college, people dropped names based on their obscurity.”

The book is rife with both well-known and obscure literary references. Fiction and literature often blends with the realities of the characters’ lives. Madeline, the protagonist is a romantic with visions of love colored by the books she is studying for her senior thesis. When she leaves the comfort of Brown University, she learns that true love isn’t really the way it is depicted in her books. All the young people featured in the book face similar challenges as they learn to reconcile the ideals of college with the possibilities of the real world. The Marriage Plot is intelligent, fun to read, and covers a variety of themes including relationships, mental illness, and growing up.

“She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you’d seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside.”

Book Worm’s Review: 3 stars
I liked this book, however, unlike Jen, I didn’t love it. I liked the characters, I liked the storyline, and I liked the ending, despite it being a bit abrupt. The writing is solid and there are some serious issues that are handled well and in heartbreaking detail. The 3 central characters learn about themselves, about life in the real world (the world outside of college), and how life is not what you expect it to be especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a romance story, as well as to those who enjoy classic literature. It is fun playing spot the literary references.

As you can see, I liked the book. So why only 3 stars? As you probably already know, sometimes it’s the timing of when you read a book that influences how you feel about it. I read this during a stressful period  – in the midst of a home construction project — the first timing problem. The second timing problem was that I read it straight after reading my favourite book of the year and compared to that I found this average, hence the rating.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Which one of us do you agree with? Have you read any of his other books? Which ones do you recommend?

Want to try it for yourself? You can buy it here: The Marriage Plot

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. I agree with your reviews. I think 3 stars is fair. I was underwhelmed by this novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2015
    • You agree with book worm then. I loved the book!

      Like

      September 22, 2015
  2. I like the sound of all of Euginides’ novels – but The Marriage Plot is the only one on my shelf because it’s the one I found in mint condition at a secondhand bookshop.

    Jen’s review makes me believe I’m gonna love The Marriage Plot. Thanks for the review, both of you.

    Like

    September 22, 2015
    • Actually, has any of you read The Virgin Suicides or Middlesex? Because I’m thinking of getting them too.

      Liked by 1 person

      September 22, 2015
      • I’ve read both. I think he will be our features author in October so we will be ranking his books. bW has read virgin suicides. I’ll be posting a book vs movie of that book in the next week or so. Personally, I like his books and style quite a bit. The marriage plot was my favorite but I also loved Middlesex. Virgin suicides was good but very depressing as you can imagine. I think BW likes his books less than I do. She’ll probably respond with her comments

        Liked by 1 person

        September 22, 2015
      • Thanks for the reply. I’m thinking of investing in Middlesex also since someone whose taste I trust loved it to bits — plus, I love the sound of the story.

        It’s great to hear that you are going to spotlight Eugenides next month. Very eager to see what you have to say about him.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 22, 2015
    • Snap- the reason I read The Marriage Plot instead of the others was also because I found it in great condition in a charity shop 🙂
      http://www.snazzybooks.com

      Like

      September 22, 2015
  3. Not read, but want to. I can’t work out whether I will be a 3 or 5 star person though.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2015
    • Hmm, I’m starting to get a sense of your tastes but I’m not 100% sure yet. Book worm is my book twin (usually) although we have been known to differ occasionally. Yet another to add to your TBR. You need to come back when you’re read one and let us know!

      Liked by 1 person

      September 22, 2015
  4. Good stuff! I agree with parts of both reviews, I reviewed it on my blog here:
    http://snazzybooks.com/2015/06/28/the-marriage-plot-by-jeffrey-eugenides-review/
    and also gave it 3/5 stars. I did really enjoy it though and want to read more of his works (my friend said Middlesex was brilliant!)

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2015
    • Boo to Book Worm winning the informal vote. Where are all my Eugenides lovers? Seriously though, nice review 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      September 22, 2015
      • Yay to winning informal vote 🙂

        I have read this and the Virgin Suicides and they were both 3 star books however I enjoyed this one more. I guess Eugenides is just not my thing they are solidly written books they just lack that certain something to make them a great read at least for me.

        Liked by 1 person

        September 23, 2015
  5. Tracy S #

    I’m here, Jen! I loved it, too, as I’ve loved both Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides. It came so close to echoing my college experience, right down to the troubled boyfriend and the Talking Heads.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 22, 2015
    • yay! I knew I wasn’t alone on this one 🙂

      Like

      September 22, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: