“There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.” Anthony Trollope.
It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, 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 studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead – charismatic loner and college Darwinist – suddenly turns up in a 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 spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they have learned. 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.
©2011 Jeffrey Eugenides (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Probably, perhaps only the first half though to revisit the way ideas interact with story. It was beautifully paced and engaging though, I was pulled along by the narrative tension between the characters, but knowing the ending, I am not sure the novel would have the same thrall on a second listen.
I thought Eugenides did a remarkable job of capturing the urgency of that time in your life (about twenty), when everything feels so weighted and important, when it feels as though every decision you make shapes the person you are about to come, the poesis of self-making. I also really admired the way he blended narrative theory and classical storytelling.
Oh, he is just brilliant! He sculpted each character out of nuance and diction, these people really came to live for me, it was like watching a movie. Perfectly paced. Beautifully read, never intrusive.
I rushed through it pretty quick!
This is certainly not Eugenides' most unique book but he's such a good writer you still want to keep listening, even if the story is just a trumped up 80s nostalgia love triangle.
As for the reading, to put it lightly, character voicing is not Pittu's strong suit. The male characters all sounded like they just swallowed a hairball, and unfortunately Madeline sounded exactly like Candace from the TV show Portlandia (those who know the reference will understand). Essentially, the characters all sounded extremely one dimensional, which is a fairly large failing considering the whole book is about the subtleties and nuances in people and personality.
An easier reading of the book would probably have brought the sense of the story out more, especially since it is such a character heavy book, but I found myself struggling more and more to ignore Pittu's simple characterisations.
I chose The Marriage Plot because I really enjoyed Middlesex, and perhaps if I wasn't aware of the comparison between the two books, I would have enjoyed this one more. However, I just couldn't get away from how boring the plot line was. Clearly, it has been very well researched because Eugenides is able to go into minute detail on a number of disparate subjects, from the behaviour of yeast cells to the Victorian novels. However it is the amount of detail that made the story drag for me. That and the fact that I couldn't really feel any empathy for the main characters, who were mostly annoying. The narrator was very good and he did create unique voices for each character, but his best efforts weren't enough to save the plodding nature of the plot.
Wouldn't suit all of my reader friends but for some of them yes. It's entertaining in a lot of ways but I felt it a little long winded at times.
He characterises so beautifully, I laughed out loud a some bits. Great narration makes a book for me and David's reading kept me going where if I'd read the book myself I might have given up in the more boring bits!
Although I felt the book too long, I still kept with it to the end, partly due to David's narration. It's still a good read, I've yet to read Middlesex but I have it in paper form so we will see if that works for me better as a novel (however, won't have the assistance of a great narrator though will I).
Have read Eugenides Middelsex and yes to David Pittu
all equally weird and despondent
a better understanding of the characters
read something more cheerful
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