Chuck Erion's Reviews > The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
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Nov 29, 2011

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bookshelves: american-novels

Jeffrey Eugenides rose to fame with his novel, Middlesex, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2002. It followed his 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, which was made into a movie in 1999. His latest is called The Marriage Plot (Knopf Canada, $32) and involves a love triangle between three students at Brown University in the early 1980s. Madeleine is the preppie daughter of an academic father and is writing a thesis on the marriage plot in 19th-century British novels, from Austen to Henry James and George Eliot. But the English faculty has been invaded by the deconstructionists, and she is falling in love with Leonard, the charismatic member of her semiotics class. As she tries to figure out her own marriage plot, she turns to Mitchell, the religious aesthete. After graduation she moves with Leonard and his manic-depressive mood swings to his grad work in a science lab; and Mitchell heads off to Europe and India where he discovers that working in Mother Teresa’s hospice repels his spiritual aspirations. Like Jonathan Franzen, Eugenides’ novel is cluttered with sociological references to its period. By the end of the book, I was much less caring about its characters than I was with Middlesex. Nonetheless I felt fully there in this book’s creation of the young idealism and its search for love and the delight of ideas.

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