February 21, 2012

The Marriage Plot

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Last year, Middlesex was one of my best reads (along with Never Let Me Go). I couldn't get over how I loved it; I oohed and aahed, raved, sang praises to it. That's why when I learned that The Marriage Plot was slated for release very soon, I looked forward to reading another of Jeffrey Eugenides' works.

It's difficult to put together a concise summary of the plot because, to be candid, I'm not sure exactly what The Marriage Plot is about. As I went through the novel and read the individual and interwoven stories of Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell, I couldn't help but deduce that this was, after all, a love story – a love triangle. You know the drill: boy loves girl, girl loves boy #2, boy #2 may or may not love somebody else, and so on. The reference to the “marriage plot” being a recurring storyline in 19th century literature, where the boy and girl weave in and out of a complicated courtship prior to and culminating in their eventual date at the altar, was made to fit into our trio's love story, as well. But there is so much more to The Marriage Plot than a mere storyline reference and an incredibly messy love triangle.

What leaped out at me about the book was the realness of the situation of the characters, especially Leonard – an attractive and intelligent young Biology graduate who blames his family background for his current problems. I am wont to divulge his condition as I'm afraid that it will spoil the plot for readers who haven't read this yet (and plan to); I even checked the blurb on my copy, and it merely spoke of “the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods”, so I'll leave it at that. What I will say, however, is that this “secret”, which figured majorly in the lives of the characters and into their story, as a whole, is a cruel, real, and inescapable thing, inexplicably tugging at my emotions like that.

Just like in Middlesex, I enjoyed Eugenides' prose immensely in this book. I am in love with it, if that's at all possible. While there were, admittedly, several parts that I found boring, the narrative occasionally meandering this way and that and then going right back on track, that did not deter me from liking and appreciating the entire novel nonetheless. Yes, it is not of the same caliber and depth as Middlesex, but The Marriage Plot was still a beautiful, touching novel that invoked the appropriate feelings from me, when a scene requires it, and left me sorely wanting for more when I closed the book.

Rating:  ★★★★


Astrid (Mrs.B) said...

I guess you liked this more than me. I would probably have given it 3 stars max. Yes, some passages were beautifully written and worth highlighting but Eugenides wandering off into obscure topics was quite annoying. This book was just ok for me. I also loved Middlesex by the way.

Monique said...

Hi Mrs. B!

Yes, I think I did love this more than you did. But I also understand where you're coming from; Eugenides had the tendency to wander in his narrative.

At least we agree on this: Middlesex and Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro are two of the best written works. :)