20 June 2013

Book Club: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides' second novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex, is one of my all-time favourite novels. He's more well-known for his debut, The Virgin Suicides, but his sophomore book is, in my opinion, infinitely better and really, honestly spectacular (and now I really want to read it again!) So, when I saw The Marriage Plot in my local Waterstones with Eugenides' name on the cover, I snapped it up. It was languishing on my shelves for a few months but after finishing all my essays I took advantage of the recent sunshine to lie in the garden, read and relax.

The Marriage Plot centres on three almost-graduates from Brown University in the 1980s. There's Madeleine, an English student, who realises that life after graduation may not be as easy as she first thought; Mitchell, a religious studies student who has been hopelessly in love with Madeleine since their first meeting and Leonard, a Biology student, who Madeleine has fallen for but who has a very different background to her and is hiding a secret. Post-graduation, Madeleine and Leonard move in together, but things aren't as easy as they hoped, while Mitchell travels around the world to escape his feelings for Madeleine. 

The book is essentially about love, both requited and unrequited, but it's also about growing up and adapting to how things really are instead of how you thought they would be.
For me, the book really captures the feeling of leaving university and being thrown into the big wide world and then having your dreams/ideals slowly be crushed and brought back to reality (this is gloomy, huh?) In particular, Madeleine applies for a few jobs and is quietly confident, before being rejected from them all and left  doubting herself, which is definitely something I can relate to right now! Similarly, Mitchell begins to question religion and the world around him, travelling to India to help others and help himself figure things out. 

I did think that the book could have been longer, especially as the big climactic events towards the end were covered in around 100 pages and I think they may have benefited from being given more room to develop. I'm also really greedy because I just want more and more of Eugenides' writing; he is one of the best authors I've come across and I love how beautifully he writes.
I was also worried at the start because there seemed to be a bit of a 'friend-zoning' vibe coming from Mitchell, but Eugenides has Madeleine challenge this which I thought was great.

I'd definitely recommend The Marriage Plot, especially if you've just left uni and are a bit scared about things to come; I found it so easy to relate to all the characters in some way. It's also quite funny, with Eugenides deftly creating background characters of the kind we all come across at university.
I would still prefer Middlesex over The Marriage Plot but I think this is a really great book and probably easier to contend with, with a 'lighter' subject matter in some instances than Middlesex.

Do you like the sound of The Marriage Plot? Have you read any of Jeffrey Eugenides' books before? Can you recommend me any new reading material?


  1. I haven't read any of the books that you mentioned in this post but you got me interested! I just wish my "to read list" wasn't as long as it is, haha :)

    Have a lovely weekend!