Five words from the blurb: American, college, love, novel, relationships
Jeffrey Eugenides has a special power with words, managing to reduce me to tears just 34 pages into Middlesex. His latest novel, The Marriage Plot, shares this magical character building, but unfortunately it lacks a powerful plot.
The Marriage Plot is an unashamedly American novel. Focusing on college students in the 1980s we see their struggle to form relationships and the pressures placed on them to pair off. The characters come to life on the very first page. I quickly felt as though I knew them all; understanding their motivations and sharing their pain.
The central character is Madeleine, an English major writing a thesis on “the marriage plot” which investigates the way changes in courtship have altered the structure of novels throughout history.
This was a clever device and I loved the way this theme was reflected in Eugenides’ novel – especially in the final few paragraphs.
I loved the character building of the first 100 pages, but after that I slowly began to lose interest. Very little happened and I became increasingly frustrated. The book had some good themes, but they were too spread out and I think it would have benefited from being at least 150 pages shorter. I suspect that the reminiscing aspects of this book will mean it has a greater appeal to Americans (especially those who went to college in the 1980s), but as someone from outside the country I felt that a lot of the cultural references went over my head.
I’m probably being a bit harsh by awarding this 3.5 stars as it clearly has a lot to recommend it. I think my expectations were a bit too high going into it and so I was disappointed by the simplicity of the plot and the mundane actions of the characters.
If you enjoy getting inside the head of ordinary people then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book, but I wish something more exciting had happened.
Everyone else thinks this book is amazing:
The Marriage Plot is humane, subtly humorous, sometimes touching, and always extremely engaging. Things Mean A Lot
….taking things that are MAD TEDIOUS, like people’s scholarly inclinations and the way they intersect with and inform said people’s life-paths and making it FASCINATING! books i done read
Eugenides prose is just as beautiful and detailed as it was in Middlesex, and his characters just as memorable. Literary Musings