Lily's Reviews > The Marriage Plot

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
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Jun 23, 2012

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Read on June 23, 2012

Just finished listening to TMP this morning. My reactions have been up and down, with a particularly positive reaction to the ending and final chapter. The title (and entire book) and characterizations were a nice take off on the popularity of Jane Austen and Victorian novel marriage plots. The recording ends with an interview with Eugenides.

Not certain how well Eugenides did his research on manic depression as a disease, with its consequent effects on human behavior. There are other books and authors on the subject who have influenced my thinking on the topic more (e.g., Kay Redfield Jamison, Sylvia Nasar, Rachel Reiland) and, while the actions "felt" right, I wondered if Eugenides put as much research into the topic as he did into yeast cultures (which he talks about doing in the interview) or Quaker practices (more informative than on yeast biology, to my reading). Likewise, taking a crack at the FDA, justified or no, seemed more like an intellectual, liberal cliche than a researched position for the case at hand.

The necessary, modern stories were embedded (m-d stood in for handicapped). I did not like the reversed-time-telling of many of the stories -- the transitions to the present, then filling in the back stories. It was a clever technique, but I appreciated the cleverness more than its effects on comprehending the story or reacting emotionally to it.

I wondered how much Leonard was an ode to David Wallace, as Milly was to Henry James's beloved cousin in The Wings of the Dove . I wanted a paper copy (rather than audio) to trace via the Internet M's trek through India. I was touched by Eugenides deft handling of Madeline's parents and their positions vis-a-vis her marriage, even though I wasn't quite happy with the intonations for the voice on the recording of her mother -- apropos, but a little harsher than need be? But, I was surprised by the final chapter and sat pondering as it ended on how appropriate to our day and age. This one chapter alone (in the context of the others) restored Eugenides to my personal collection of respected authors (although Middlesex would have kept him from being kicked out).

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Jessie Eubanks I think you're right about Leonard giving off strong DFW vibes. There's a part early in the book where he puts on a blue bandanna and the comparison was all but unavoidable.


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