The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

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The best way to describe my feelings for The Marriage Plot is to use a passage from the book itself, “The experience of watching Leonard get better was like reading certain difficult books. It 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.” Beautiful, no? I almost gave up on the book halfway through, but I’m glad I didn’t. The entire second half was much more captivating than the first. Either way, Jeffrey Eugenides is a brilliant writer, and he exhibits some true “genius” moments throughout this novel.

While the story is essentially about a “love triangle” between characters Leonard, Madeleine and Mitchell, it is so much more. The book explores the minds of the vain, the mentally unstable, the lost, the self-righteous and pretty much everything in between. The characters are intense and interesting and I was genuinely invested in them and in their lives. I really loved how Eugenides was able to alternate the heavy and light. One minute a character is questioning his belief in God and in the validity of religion; the next, he’s simply whining about the pretty girl he wants but can’t have. Even though it is set in the 80’s, it feels like it could’ve been written yesterday.

The ending left me a little disappointed, but I realize that there was really no other way to appropriately end the work – lest the reader should be left furious and throw the book across the room (or Nook in my case). English majors, you’ll love this novel. The countless literary references throughout the work made me do a mental fist pump every time. Overall, it was an enjoyable read. 3.5 out of 5. I’ll leave you with some lovely passages.

“Madeleine thought to herself, as she’d thought many times before, that Mitchell is the kind of smart, sane, parent-pleasing boy she should fall in love with and marry. That she never would fall in love with Mitchell and marry him, precisely because of this eligibility, was yet another indication, in a morning teeming with them, just how screwed up she was in matters of the heart.”

“She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.”–> You and me both, sister!

“She used a line from Trollope’s Barchester Towers as an epigraph: ‘There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.’”

“Abby and Olivia thought it was the romantic in Madeleine who wept. They thought she was delusional, ridiculous. She would have felt the same, if it had been one of them, pining away. Heartbreak is funny to everyone but the heartbroken.”

“When she’d stopped crying, Madeleine composed herself before the mirror. […] Madeleine knew that this self-appraisal might not be accurate. A bruised ego reflected it’s own image.”

“It was something every child knew how to do, maintain a direct and full connection with the world. Somehow you forgot about it as you grew up, and had to learn it again.”

“It was as if her own heart had been surgically removed from her body and was being kept at a remote location, still connected to her and pumping blood through her veins, but exposed to dangers she couldn’t see: her heart in a box somewhere, in the open air, unprotected.”

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