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The Marriage Plot

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  113,908 ratings  ·  11,557 reviews
It's the early 1980s - the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to the 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 ...more
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published October 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)

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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  113,908 ratings  ·  11,557 reviews

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Apr 27, 2011 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 Br
Oct 16, 2011 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
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
Nov 19, 2011 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
May 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“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. Its thoroughly affecting and modern, smart and hella funny—it has very few of those moments of nothing
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
"In the days when success in life had depended on marriage, and marriage had depended on money, novelists had had a subject to write about. The great epics sang of war, the novel of marriage. Sexual equality, good for women, had been bad for the novel. And divorce had undone it completely."

By presenting us with a compelling and contemporary story, I believe Jeffrey Eugenides quite successfully dispels the notion expressed above in The Marriage Plot. The novel is very much alive and doing quite
Andrew Smith
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’d loved the author’s tour de force Middlesex and had recently worked through his anthology of short stories, Fresh Complaint, where I came across a tale that really interested me – well, in truth, it spooked me a little too. The story, written in 1996, is called Air Mail and it concerns a young man called Mitchell who is suffering badly from a bout of diarrhoea whilst temporarily staying at a remote beach in Thailand. The ending of the story is ambiguous – did he just die? I just didn’t ...more
Feb 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1-fiction
3 stars to Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot. My book club selected this a few years ago, given they had all previously read Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides before I joined. I've since moved and not with that book club anymore, but I keep in touch with many of them. I hadn't read either book, but I did watch the movie "The Virgin Suicides" and I drove through a town called Middlesex in NJ, whenever I would go back and forth to college in Pennsylvania. I suppose that doesn't count for much, ...more
Feb 17, 2012 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
Jun 19, 2012 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)
Sep 29, 2011 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
Dec 18, 2011 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.
B the BookAddict
Aug 23, 2016 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
Megan Baxter
May 25, 2013 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
Gary  the Bookworm
Nov 27, 2011 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 rel
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
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
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
Sep 14, 2011 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
Sep 08, 2011 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
Elyse  Walters
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love Jeffrey Eugenides. In just the few pages I've read, I can tell this is a book to savior---sip the juices of Jeffrey's beautiful writing slowly.

I'm excited reading this book....(reading each sentence-turning each page lights a fire in me). I already don't want this story to end--(and I still have most of the book to read).

Madeleine Hanna is the main protagonist...
She is in love with Leonard...
Mitchell is in love with her...

Back to Semiotics class 211 ...

"English is what people major in C
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World class interpretation of young romance from college through to post grad life, by a world class writer. Even a very overused theme like this, is given new life by Eugenides, as he weaves mental health, WASP families, jocks vs nerds, unrequited love, platonic friendships, searching for religion into this very well crafted drama. 8 out of 12.
Liz Janet
Jan 22, 2016 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,
Aug 13, 2011 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
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 08, 2011 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
Emily Crowe
Jul 16, 2011 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 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
Aug 15, 2011 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
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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.


Articles featuring this book

Three brainy Ivy Leaguers fumble in love in The Marriage Plot, a new novel from the author of Middlesex. Eugenides discusses the struggle between...
24 likes · 13 comments
“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.” 467 likes
“She'd become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” 314 likes
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