The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
A Novel

69%

14 Critic Reviews

Unfortunately, The Marriage Plot possesses neither the conceptual genius of Eugenides’ first book, nor the second book’s likable protaganist.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

A New York Times Notable Book of 2011
A Publisher's Weekly Top 10 Book of 2011
A Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Best Fiction of 2011 Title
One of Library Journal's Best Books of 2011
A Salon Best Fiction of 2011 title
One of The Telegraph's Best Fiction Books of the Year 2011

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 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 greatest English novels.

As Madeleine tries to understand why "it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in eighteenth-century France," real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old "friend" Mitchell Grammaticus—who's been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange—resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology Laboratory on Cape Cod, but can't escape the secret responsible for Leonard's seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

 

About Jeffrey Eugenides

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Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux to great acclaim in 1993, and was adapted into a film by Sofia Coppola. Middlesex received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, and was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and France's Prix Medicis, and was selected for Oprah's Book Club. It has sold more than 3 million copies.
 
Published October 11, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 417 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Science Fiction & Fantasy. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 30 2011
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Marriage Plot
All: 14 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 6

Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by James Lasdun on Oct 14 2011

It's customary to cheer when an author moves outside his comfort zone, but I'm not sure it was such a great idea in this case.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Sacks on Oct 08 2011

In many ways this novel is sly, fun entertainment, a confection for English majors and book lovers—but it leaves a bad aftertaste.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Lindsay Howell on Oct 07 2011

After nine years, Eugenides has delivered a stunningly moving work that will keep you thinking long after the last page has been read.

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Star Tribune

Below average
Reviewed by Weston Cutter on Oct 29 2011

Ultimately, "The Marriage Plot" is a letdown: The reader is never compelled to feel much for these characters.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by Zsuzsi Gartner on Oct 14 2011

The novel’s prose is a nice meld of melancholy, almost Fitzgeraldesque at times, and wit.

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by Carolyn Kellogg on Oct 09 2011

This book is sweeter, kinder, with a more generous heart. What's more, it is layered with exactly the kinds of things that people who love novels will love.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Leah Greenblatt on Oct 11 2011

Plot's story line wobbles and ultimately loses its way.

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The Telegraph

Good
Reviewed by Lucy Daniels on Oct 11 2011

Being Eugenides, the book is immensely readable, funny and heartfelt, with instantly beguiling writing that springs effortlessly back and forth over the year’s events.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Moira Macdonald on Oct 10 2011

Eugenides, a master storyteller, has a remarkable way of twisting his narrative in a way that seems effortless; taking us backward and forward in time to fill in details.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Above average
Reviewed by Maud Newton on Oct 18 2011

...all too often reading The Marriage Plot was less like sinking into a George Eliot novel than studying an extremely insightful academic article about one.

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Slate

Good
Reviewed by Michael Agger on Oct 10 2011

I enjoyed spending time with these familiar people, with their familiar cultural references, and discovering some dark unfamiliarity, too.

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Macleans

Excellent
Reviewed by Anne Kingston on Oct 18 2011

He has created an absorbing universe of a book—so much so readers will turn the last page still hoping for more.

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Chicago Sun Times

Good
Reviewed by John Barron on Oct 13 2011

Extremely ambitious, The Marriage Plot is also surprising and propulsive. Its non-linear narrative allows the introduction of a huge number of expertly rendered settings.

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National Post arts

Below average
Reviewed by Christopher Shulgan on Oct 14 2011

Unfortunately, The Marriage Plot possesses neither the conceptual genius of Eugenides’ first book, nor the second book’s likable protaganist.

Read Full Review of The Marriage Plot: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for The Marriage Plot
68%

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Sarah Ann 1 Mar 2014

Rated the book as 3 out of 5

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