Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book twenty-eight: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

If you like literary characters who are young, smart, and stupid all at the same time then Jeffrey Eugenides latest novel is definitely for you.  The Marriage Plot is set in the 1980s and follows the lives of three college students: Madeleine Hanna, Mitchell Grammaticus, and Leonard Bankhead.  As the three graduate from college and begin their lives, their relationships become more (and less personal) and true love seems to fall in just the wrong places.

I can't go much farther in this review without talking about Eugenides' writing; it's flawless.  Seldom do I read a book where the writing never gets in the way.  Even in the most well written books, it seems I'm occasionally shaken from the story and forced to nit pick the writing.  Not in this book.  The words are so seamless, so effortless, that I got lost in the story and never had to come up for writing air.  I also loved the way Eugenides weaves the story from character to character, allowing us to see what's really happening and what's perceived to be happening.  And he does this without ever making me feel like I've been subjected to a jolting flashback.

Eugenides' brilliant writing allows us to become engrossed in the lives of the three core characters. And they are characters that make some bad choices. It would be easy for me to not like these characters.  That is if they didn't remind me so damn much of friends I like and interact with.  And just like the frustration I experience when some of my friends repeatedly do stupid things, these characters can be infuriating.  But in the end, just like in my interactions with other, you end up focusing on the good and trying to ignore the bad.

I recently told a friend I like the fact that this book has a happy ending.  She corrected me suggesting that this book offers the hope of a happy ending.  I have to concede she's right.  But I'm good with just the hope.  Maybe that's because I hold out hope that all my crazy friends' lives will somehow end in happiness.  Maybe that's why I liked this book.  Because rather than giving me the perfect ending, it gave me hope that things just might turn out all right.


  1. The characters in this book really frustrated me at times. I guess that goes to show you that the writing is good when the characters are fully formed enough to be unlikable from time to time. I hope they find their happy ending eventually.

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  3. A very thoughtful examination of the decisions made early in life and the understanding and awareness of self and others that follows.