I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
This is the first Eugenides novel I've "read," and I liked it so much, I've already got Middlesex in my cart. Eugenides has developed three interesting main characters, in particular one who struggles with bipolar disorder. All the protagonists are likable, and the characterization is consistent. The author evokes a wide range of emotions in the readers.
As for the narrator, well, he wasn't so great. He mispronounced a couple of words, and he didn't have a repertoire of voices--I considered him to be a reader, not an actor.
Say something about yourself!
I don't know how honest a review this is since I deleted The Marriage Plot about a third of the way through, listening only to the first part of the book in which our heroine Madeleine attends Brown University. It seemed to me that Eugenides had only one rather bombastic, naive and pompous character split into many names and voices populating part 1. The entire section felt like an illustration of a point he really wanted to make and was more lecture discussion than story.
Reader David Pittu engaged his formidable talent with voices to define the many characters, but his choice to use acting technique rather than storytelling technique only reinforced Eugenides lack of story.
While I enjoy meditation, the illustration of an idea and even occasional pontification in my fiction, The Marriage Plot was just too thin.
I absolutely adored both the Virgin Suicide and Middlesex, and was excited to see that Eugenides had published anew. However, The Marriage Plot is bad in so many ways that I'm shocked. It is simultaneously pretentious and vapid (name-dropping and surface-level discussions of literary theory and spiritual philosophies), and the story is terribly juvenile. It is a story of pedestrian heartbreak, like most failed college relationships, and the characters are so totally plausible that they are boring, generic. I do not care about these people, or their feelings for one another, or their fates. I am also extremely put off by the exclusivity of the hardly-fictionalized, entirely-privileged world of Brown University. This feels like a poorly-executed, love-lorn, man-child's autobiography of Young Love's Dull Persistence.
The narrator did the best he could with the material at hand, but no matter how great an actor/reader you are, it's nearly impossible to make some of this writing come off as natural, or talented. For instance, Eugenides actually uses "shot his load" and "curd of evidence," in all seriousness, in the same sentence, to describe a college boy's frustrated masturbatory experiences. A lot of this novel is just plain graceless.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story but once was enough. The main characters experiences as a young female english student were enlightening. I could see myself reviewing to grab a few intriguing mentions of books I'd never read. I have no reason to revisit the story.
The main characters parents created many memorable moments that were strangely familiar and made me laugh aloud in the car while listening a long ride to New Hampshire.
The narration good but a bit slow for my taste. In fact, the narrator's energy improved in the 3-4 chapter. I don't know if that was intentionally reflecting the mood of the story, or if he connected with the characters later in the story.
Living and learning from the literary elite.
I suppose I'll give Middlesex a lesson now that I've had a taste of Jeffrey Eugenides.
I was a high school history teacher and a physician assistant-retired.
The plot was boring, the characters moody, self-indulged, and tedious. They labored from one place to another without any real purpose. I persisted to listen to the entire story hoping that the end would reward my persistence, but I ended up unfulfilled. Also, I wanted to give Eugenides the benefit of the doubt because of his last, great novel,
Pittu did a great job of differentiating voices, and does a particularly fine job with the women.
It does not need a follow-up book because the characters are one-dimensional and not likable or interesting. The Plot was too long as it stands.
Addicted to Audible!
I enjoyed listening to this book probably because I am living a little bit of this story with my 3 adult children right now. Eugenides describes them and their peers to a tee, their lifestyle, their behaviors, their beliefs that by being privledged and intellectual they have somehow reinvented life, love, sex, relationships, marriage, work, etc..... I think he did a great job of updating the marriage plot and I was neither bored nor disapointed. This is not, Middlesex, but it has its own merits and I think he succeeds.
(also posted on Amazon.com)
I intended to love this book, having waited for it since Middlesex. I am disappointed. I felt like I was reading Franzen's Corrections, which was okay, but I didn't need to read it again; nor did I finish Freedom by Franzen for the same reason. I am disappointed because I had put great stock in JE, and I was sure this next book, so long in coming would be a masterpiece.
What has happened to popular literature? Why is it sufficient to trot out the lives of characters, their intersections and their problems, without the framework of plot -- there is no "desire" here. There is no conflict, and there is no passion.
I am always glad to learn new things. So after the MP I know some little something about yeast cells. I know a little more about manic/depression and I know some things about India which I might not have come to otherwise know.
The parents in this story were cut from the same dough as many others. In this book, and those like it, 20somethings from the 1980s (who would be 50 somethings now) are vapid but brilliant, healthy but unable to follow their own common sense, and they aren't even having a great time with sex. Sex is so tortuous in this book, that it frequently reads like the Indian excrement scene, embarrassing and tragic.
I suppose, as one reviewer put it, if I were of that class, I could identify with it better. I am much older than those characters were in this telling, but I don't lack my own memories from my 20s. We had **fun**. We suffered deeply, we played hard, we felt things, we regretted, we rejoiced. These people don't even get a kick from their privileged education and the exposure to the subjects they chose to study.
Poor Mitchell couldn't measure up to his own standards for being "good." Leo's situation is hopeless. I've known some M/Ds in my life. They function most of the time, they hold jobs and have families, go to school and prevail much of the time -- especially those with two shrinks and constant medication monitoring. This boy, Leonard, was hung out to dry. Maddy took on his illness and became a depressive too. There was nothing to root for in any of them.
So, I am disappointed on many levels. I expected more from the writer of Middlesex. I expected more from the parade of characters, not all of whom were cardboard cut-outs, and I expected some kind of mystery or journey or decision to be made by the hero -- but frankly, I am not sure who the hero/protagonist was.
The point of view changes were very effective, because not one of those characters could have supported the whole book. I was looking for a transition, a convergence of the three into one (metaphorically), but none came.
Maddy gets out of her situation with Leonard. Mitchell must accept her passive rejection and Leo is out running in the woods. While this may represent reality, who gives a s**t?
I'm a big fan of Jeffrey Eugenides, so I was delighted to see The Marriage Plot available on Audible, and couldn't wait to download it. Unfortunately, and much to my sad surprise, I never really made a real connection with any of the main characters. I found most of the characters distinctly unpleasant, so it became more and more difficult to understand why they all were falling in love with each other, or even why any of them were friends. All of the characters' attitudes of "better than" -- culturally, intellectually, romantically, spiritually -- were too thick for me to feel anything like compassion for them. They weren't the three dimensional, complicated characters I'm used to meeting in Eugenides books.
Narrative makes the world go round.
Like one of the 19th Brit masterpieces centered on the marriage plot, you can get lost in this listen just through the characters, story and gentle social comedy of manners; however, instead of examining an ISSUE through its plot, it's a bit Orlando-like in examining the state of narrative fiction (post-post modern in disguise?).
Though set in the 1980s, it seems really to be about narrative fiction today, much like the traditional masterpiece referents were often written slightly out of the timeframe they address. I rated it overall as a only 4 star listen because I did not think the narrator the best voice for all three major characters, and at my age, narrative fiction (even at its best) about 20th century 20- something Ivy Leaguers, WASP and otherwise, is not my first choice of subject matter.
Long live the novel, and the marriage plot, however they emerge in western postindustrial, post modern society. Both are worth the journey in this listen.
One of my all time favorite books is Middlesex and I love Virgin suicides, so I could hardly wait to read Marriage Plot. Was very disappointed. Eugenides rambled on about so many things and none of the characters were very appealing.