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The Marriage Plot

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  94,867 Ratings  ·  10,259 Reviews
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, rea ...more
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 2nd 2011)
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Kathryn Scarborough I am stymied by this book at every turn, the plot is not sequential, chronological or ... and I keep thinking, well what's going to happen next and do…moreI am stymied by this book at every turn, the plot is not sequential, chronological or ... and I keep thinking, well what's going to happen next and do I really want to slog through this to get to the end?(less)
Alisa As a college student in the 1980s, I can attest that this is pretty much true-to-life. This was the way we acted. It was pre-AIDS, so there was a…moreAs a college student in the 1980s, I can attest that this is pretty much true-to-life. This was the way we acted. It was pre-AIDS, so there was a seeming freedom about sex with any and everybody. And this is youthful, experimental, fun sex, not the staid old married sex it seems a lot of us settle for. I'd sell it as true-to-life. If it can't be sold, well, it's their loss. Great novel!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Oct 29, 2011 Tatiana rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: fans of "One Day"
Pretentious. I try to stay away from this word reviewing books, because too many of my favorites literary novels have been called that and it hurt. But The Marriage Plot is pretentious. And also pompous, elitist, privileged and self-important.

I just can't quite believe that the author who managed to make stories of 5 suicidal girls and a Greek hermaphrodite so compelling, could come up with something like The Marriage Plot and think it a worthy tale to tell. A rich, freshly graduated from Brow
I'm convinced this is what happens if you combine a Whit Stillman script, Franny and Zooey, and a whole lot of beige. There's some beautiful writing here, unfortunately there's equally lot of bland writing. It doesn't help that the characters are dull either. At times, I couldn't believe that this was nine years in the making...yet at the same time I could. Let's just say the writing has a certain over-wrought feel to it.

Madeleine, the main heroine is a snooze. She's basically a stock dream girl
Oct 23, 2011 Gerald rated it it was amazing
Masterful on many levels. At first I wasn't drawn to any of the three characters in the love triangle - Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell. Each seemed deeply flawed, and they are. Except you read along and find that Eugenides thinks we all are, just as deeply in our unique ways, and are none the lesser for it. That's the way people are, and the way life goes. We stumble through it, thinking we are somehow in control, and it's what happens nevertheless while we are furiously busy making other plan ...more
Dec 04, 2013 Mindy rated it it was ok
While there are passages that are beautiful in only the way Eugenides can write, they act more like flashes of brilliance in an otherwise dull and lazy novel.

The first part of the book shoves Semiotics into your brain and reads like the most terrible and awkwardly pretentious college courses that no one should ever have to suffer. And throughout it all, I kept feeling like this book was only for English majors (and maybe Philosophy majors), and had an agenda that did not involve telling a good s
Sep 20, 2016 Teresa rated it liked it
I loved The Virgin Suicides for its style, imagery and voice. I loved Middlesex for its 'epic' storytelling, its characters and a lyrical flight of fancy near the end that I think I'll never forget. Because of the lofty standards the author's previous works set for me perhaps it is inevitable, despite the trademark humor and intelligence evident in this novel too, that this one couldn't live up to the others. Perhaps it's just that the elements I liked in this novel didn't add up to a cohesive w ...more
JSA Lowe
Sep 05, 2012 JSA Lowe rated it liked it
Okay, fine, Jeffrey, you win. You made me care about these twenty-something white college kids despite myself. Setting certain crucial sections in a) the psych unit and b) a hospice in India was probably what saved you, as well as a loopy last-five-pages accellerando during which you niftily dump the marriage plot device on its head. Also some unvarnished sex scenes and more than one wincingly convincing young-couple argument. But you know what? I still hold you to those first 200 pages of REALL ...more
I am trying to decide if I really liked this book so much because I really liked it so much, or if I really liked it because it made me feel smart without really having to do anything. I fear it is the latter, but check back with me later on that. That said, the story is about the relationship between Mitchell who loves Madeleine who loves Leonard. I never figured out who Leonard loves. It's basically an intellectualized, sort of depressing rom-com, if that even makes any sense.

switterbug (Betsey)
Oct 09, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it liked it
Kafka said, “A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” Stories that bore holes, blasting through the ice and earth rather than piling more on top of a parched, idle field, has the capacity to alter the reader, produce a chemical reaction and transgress the space that has already been traversed.

Eugenides’ revolutionary novel THE VIRGIN SUICIDES blew the dust off the languid spines of literature shelves and, although the context wasn’t new (suburbia, Baby Boom generation), his Greek ch
Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
It's hard to follow Middlesex. Practically anything that came from Jeffrey Eugenides' pen or computer or whatever was going to pale in comparison. And indeed, this isn't as good as Middlesex. But don't mistake that for not being good. The Marriage Plot may not reach those lofty heights, but it's still a solid read.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can r
Oct 07, 2014 H rated it did not like it
I only finished a quarter of this book before I had to return it to the library (express check-out). I think it should have been called The Marriage Plop. Granted, I'm no literary genius, just some schmuck with a science degree, so I don't get all the references, but beyond that I found each character hideously irritating and didn't really care how the story progressed or ended.

The book club consensus was as follows: Some of us liked it, most of us didn't, but EVERYONE was disappointed.
Sep 21, 2016 Fabian rated it it was amazing
“The experience…was like plowing through late James, or the pages about agrarian reform in “Anna Karenina”, until you suddenly got to a good part again, which kept on getting better and better until you were so enthralled that you were almost grateful for the previous dull stretch because it increased your eventual pleasure.”

But this particular novel, thank goodness, isn't at all like this: it is thoroughly affecting and modern, smart and hella funny—it has very few of those moments of nothingn
B the BookAddict
Aug 24, 2016 B the BookAddict rated it really liked it

For anyone who has attended college, this will make you think of those days; the exams, lectures, life on campus, study, relationships, parties etc. The stress of preparing a senior thesis...makes me exhausted just to remember it. The scope of this novel is wide. While I loved this novel, I found writing a review is tough because it's a story of many parts; coming of age, a love triangle, college life, drama, 'privileged/underprivileged students', manic depression, travel, religion. This is all
Having been a big fan of Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, it's needless to say that his latest, The Marriage Plot, immediately went on my virtual to-read-list. But despite making many a year-end best-of list and literary award-nominated, it almost as quickly tumbled down my list as heard very mixed things about it (including the inevitable "not as good" as Middlesex). It only made it back up my list when it was announced as one of the #1 seeds in the Tournament of Books competition. I am glad it di ...more
This was the first book that I read in my first house I bought late last year. I saw Eugenides (one of my favorite authors ever) speak and received an autographed copy, which had a dust jacket that my dog Franny chewed his face from. I loved the Fresh Air interview where he spoke about this book, as well. And I had been waiting for this book for soOOOoo long. I was VERY excited to read it once it was finally in my hands.

This book was a major letdown, truth be told. I really love and admire The V
Gary  the Bookworm
Aug 26, 2016 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
To compare this to Middlesex is a mistake-akin to comparing grand opera to an intimate chamber piece. This book succeeds because it takes the structure and theme of a nineteenth century novel and turns them upside down. The love triangle which drives the plot reminds me of the Freudian view of self. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
At its core is Madeleine(ego), who has spent her time consuming stories about love without absorbing their lessons about life. She falls hard for Leonard (id) and enters into a permanent relations
Grace Tjan
BookFiendUSA: So, how was it? My GR friends’ reviews are all over the place on this one. How does it compare to Virgin Suicides or Middlesex?

SandyBanks1971: It’s…OK. Not badly written at all, but nothing incredible either. I can’t compare it with Eugenides’ earlier works, as I have never read anything by him before.

BookFiendUSA: Seriously? You’ve never even seen the Sofia Coppola movie?

SandyBanks1971: Nope. But I’ve read the synopses of the earlier books, and I can tell you that there are absol
Oct 21, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
I am enjoying the marriage plot. Set in a college town in the Eighties, it appeals to those of us who majored in literature or did post grad studies. Madeleine's love life is often hilarious, sometimes sad. Eugenides
writes great satire. Here is an excerpt:"Reading a novel after reading semiotic theory was like jogging empty-handed after jogging with hand weights. What exquisite guilt she felt, wickedly enjoying narrative! Madeleine felt safe with a nineteenth century novel. There were going to
Jun 29, 2012 Al rated it really liked it
I'm afraid that I don't know enough about the old marriage plot novels (Austen, Elliot, James, etc.) that this one references to really "get" everything Eugenides is trying to do here. For example, I initially found Madeline to be fairly thinly rendered in comparison to the more fully fleshed out intellectual and emotional lives of her male counterparts, but by the end I thought that might be part of the point (ie. that she exists on the page only as an ideal mirrors the way she exists to her su ...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 01, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2012 new addition)
Definitely inferior to his two earlier bestsellers, The Virgin Suicides (4 stars) and Middlesex (3 stars) but I still liked this. It is still has that tongue-in-cheek, contemporary satirist prose of Eugenides. His playful words, the effective use of settings to heighten his scenes, his easy tone and light (generally) mood are all in this book. The revelation in the end is not as shocking as Virgin and there is no overbearingly strange character like the hermaphrodites in Middlesex here. However, ...more
Aug 13, 2011 dave rated it liked it
Having loved Middlesex so much, I'm having troubles talking about this book. I think I understand that Eugey was going for something--toying with old conventions used in the Victorian/Austen era. He puts enough literary history/theory in here to fell a horse, and with this, I think he's saying, "Just want to make you aware that I KNOW [that this is unoriginal]." He titled this book The Marriage Plot in reference to the well known plot structure in which a beautiful young woman must choose betwee ...more
Emily Crowe
Dec 04, 2013 Emily Crowe rated it liked it
Though I have been a bookseller for more years than I'm willing to confess, I have somehow never read Jeffrey Eugenides, despite his Pulitzer Prize and the fact that The Virgin Suicides is the favorite novel of one of my favorite sales reps (shout-out to Michael Kindness!). It's not that I was actively not reading Eugenides. I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. Enter his new book this October from Farrar, Strauss and Giroux called The Marriage Plot, which my bookstore is considering for its si ...more
Justin Evans
Apr 08, 2013 Justin Evans rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
A discussion of this book with my wife leads me to believe that I am the only person in the world who didn't know - 'plot' spoiler - that one of the three main characters is a manic-depressive headkerchief wearing philosopher/scientist who chews chewing tobacco and is both found irresistible by women and also looks like sasquatch, i.e., one of the three major characters is David Foster Wallace. For the first two thirds of the book I was excited to see what Jeffrey would make DFW do; what weird F ...more
Liz BooksandStuff
Feb 12, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It is books like this one that make me weep for humanity. What went wrong Eugenides? Well, everything. I do not think I have ever read a more pretentious book in all of my life. It is filled with pretensions people that do nothing but be pretentious, and this is coming from a self-proclaimed pretentious person that loves pretentious books, I am offended.
I don't hate the guy, I loved Middlesex, and liked The Virgin suicides, but this book drove me into the schism. It did have some good moments,
Mar 19, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
The first part of this novel examines (in a manner both accurate and funny) the big fuss over deconstruction back in the day of 80's academia. And then it goes on to actually deconstruct the traditional marriage plot via the "discourses" of religion, philosophy, and lit crit. However, this is not a cold novel of ideas; au contraire, JE creates a moving love triangle formed by three smart, lively 20-somethings as they navigate the post-college recession and discover the "real world" with its subs ...more
Barry Pierce
Ugh. This novel is asinine. It follows a group of pretentious people going around and being pretentious while talking about pretentious things and generally trying to get a reaction from my gag reflex. I mean at one point a character just takes "Finnegans Wake" out of their pocket, I mean seriously. I feel like the main point of this novel is just Eugenides shouting, "look how many books I've read!". It's rubbish of the highest degree. It also manages to be worse than Eugenides' other waste of p ...more
Stefania T.
Sep 13, 2014 Stefania T. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Ho pensato di scrivere sotto l'influsso di un intero pacco di Gocciole nel sangue e dei Kings of Convenience nelle orecchie, nella speranza di mitigare il panorama di acidità che temo si prospetti.

Pare stia funzionando.

Il romanzo non mi è piaciuto. Per niente. Per. Niente.
Eppure, giunta ai bordi del temibile baratro del rimpianto - il rimpianto per il denaro ed il tempo persi nella lettura - non ho saltato. Non ho avuto fretta, voltata l'ultima pagina, e sono restata a chiacchierare con il libro
Christina Boodhan Juras
Feb 22, 2012 Christina Boodhan Juras rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-finished
I am about 75 pages into this book and so far, I am not enjoying it.
It's about a college student in the U.S. who is writing a thesis about the way marriage plots are used in literature, mostly classics of which I haven't heard of too many of them. That seems to be the subplot. The main plot is about the student, Madeleine, and her "relationships" with her parents and these 2 love interests, Mitchell and Leonard.
I'm annoyed by the characters so far. It's almost as if they are trying too hard to b
Oct 28, 2014 Joey rated it liked it
Shelves: fictions
As far as I remember, two months ago, Ian McEwan, an English writer , famous for his novel ATONEMENT, once said in an interview that he finds a very long novel boring. I was confused about his statement then because I have read some ambitious novels which are superbly amazing . In the middle of reading it, it came to me that one of the reasons may be PADDING- meaning to say to make a book thicker or its story longer, a writer pads it with unnecessary words or details. THE MARRIAGE PLOT is not fa ...more
Dec 21, 2011 T4ncr3d1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: statunitensi
"(...) Madeleine capì appieno in che senso il discorso amoroso fosse di una solitudine estrema. La solutidine era estrema perché non era fisica. Era estrema perché la provavi mentre eri con la persona amata. Era estrema perché era dentro la tua testa, il più solitario dei luoghi."

Temo proprio che questo romanzo si presterà a una miriade di equivoci. Una copertina "romantica", la parola "matrimonio" inserita nel titolo (inaudito!), l'attrattiva fascetta che parla di amore ed una quarta di coperti
The Marriage Plot is a coming of age novel that explores the pains that comes with life experience. The novel follows three Brown University friends beginning their senior year and then life after graduation. Madeleine Hanna is an English major with an interest in the Victorian novel and the importance of the marriage plot within all the greatest English novels. Leonard Morten a biologist, who is charismatic and intelligent, but constantly dealing with either unlimited energy or sinking moods. M ...more
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Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extraction.

Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, of Greek and Irish descent. He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School. He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University, graduating in 1983. He later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University.

More about Jeffrey Eugenides...

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“Depression is like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got to be careful not to touch it where it hurts. It's always there, though.” 380 likes
“She'd become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” 262 likes
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