Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot, the latest novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, is a coming of age story of the early 1980's that follows three young people through college at Brown University and the year afterwards. Each has his/her own interest: Madeleine's focus is on nineteenth century literature, while Leonard is studying biology and Mitchell is concentrating on philosophy and religious studies.

Eugenides stays close to each of these three characters, in all their pain and confusion. Madeleine embarks on a very difficult romance with Leonard, who is charming, outgoing, and fun during the best of times, but wild, unpredictable, and unreasonable at others. He is manic-depressive, or bipolar, and is struggling to forge a career while struggling with (and trying to hide) a serious disease. Madeleine is trying to plan for graduate school, knowing that Leonard's condition will make their lives and relationship challenging. Meanwhile, Mitchell is volunteering in a hospital in India, and having a hard time making decisions about his faith and the direction of his postgraduate emphasis.

Mitchell has also been in love with Madeleine all through college, so this story is also a love triangle. Eugenides provides the reader with a rich depiction of the passions influencing his characters.

Madeleine, Mitchell, and Leonard are all smart and incredibly well-read, but in the end, none of the literature they have prized and favored for years can instruct them on how to live their lives. The Marriage Plot is a fascinating, mulitlayered story that can be enjoyed for many different reasons. There is so much going on in this novel that it is hard not to write some rambling post that goes off on several tangents. This is an excellent choice for a book discussion group, and I'm enjoying reading the varied viewpoints on Goodreads. People are making some very good points that hadn't occurred to me.

We had another attack of winter weather recently: a beautiful dusting of snow, followed by blazing sunshine. Very pretty. It got up to 40 degrees today, at least, so the snow in our sun-exposed yard is all gone, while it's intact across the street. It'll be cold again this weekend, but not for long. Easiest. winter. ever.

Happy weekend! What's on tap?


TLP said...

I'm just about to read this post to your father. As you know, he'll be reading this book for his book group this year. Good review as always.

On tap here is that Della will be taking Dick to the The Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra concert on Sunday. Then he has his book group Sunday night. They read The Feast of the Goat, this month.

I'm going to work on my basket for your committee.

TLP said...

Dad thanks for you this post.

And BTW, it is the easiest winter ever for sure.

Doug said...

It sounds a little like an urban version of Larry McMurtry's Leavin' Cheyenne.

actonbell said...

Thanks, Mom:)

Doug, I must get around to reading something by McMurtry!

Logophile said...

I find that the Goodreads reviews can be quite helpful and then sometimes quite maddening! You get such a mixed lot, which is just way the life is, but sometimes to such extremes that you wonder if they all read the same book!

My to read list is getting insanely long...sigh
so many books, so little time

actonbell said...

I agree, Logo. It's fascinating and frustrating how diverse we are!