Beth's Reviews > The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
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's review
Dec 23, 11

bookshelves: audio-book-read, library-book
Read from December 12 to 23, 2011

Readers whose lives were lit on fire by Eugenides’ suicidal, incestuous, androgynous, Hellenistic characters and/or consider themselves to be intellectual heavy-hitters may be in for a disappointment with this novel. Given that I don’t really fall into either of these categories, I started out having a good time with this book especially since one of its main characters is an English major (based mainly on the fact that she loves reading with no practical outcome in choosing it as a major). Another one of the characters, supposedly loosely based on Eugenides himself, finds that he has an unexpected interest in theology; through him readers are able to explore many different philosophies (again, if you’re extremely well-versed in philosophy, his revelations may seem banal, but not so for me). And then, there’s the third in the triangle, seemingly based on David Foster Wallace, with his own set of issues that I won’t spoil.

Told in the third person omniscient perspective (not one of my favorites unless it’s done really well), we follow a triangle of college students trying to make their way in the world of academia, romance, navigation of the social strata that is found on any campus, and the world after college. Eugenides often tells the same story from multiple characters’ viewpoints. This works well when the reader is rewarded in the re-telling with a fresh insight (think Brett Easton Ellis’ The Rules of Attraction). Unfortunately, it is hit-or-miss in this book; when not enough new insight is gained in the re-telling it feels like a punishment to have to essentially read the same (lengthy) story twice.

Certainly what this book tries to do is to take the romance novels of the Brontes and Austin and fully flesh them out – giving a better idea of the characters’ complete thought processes. Yet along the way, it sometimes overtaxes its readers with too much superfluous information. This book could have faired better had it been a couple of inter-connected short stories, which is interesting since it refers to Franny and Zooey, which did it well.
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