Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Firstly, I must disclose that I have absolutely been in love with Jeffrey Eugenides since I read Middlesex, a few years ago, so I may not be the most impartial of reviewers.  I eagerly awaited this new release of his and was happy when my name was up on the library's list.

In this novel, we literally follow a modern day Marriage Plot between three students at Brown University in Rhode Island.  They are on the eve of their graduation in 1982 - one is suffering from debilitating bi polar disorder (manic/depression), the second is Madeleine (who is brilliant and beautiful and sells herself short constantly) and the third is Mitchell, who is the journeyman and travels through Europe and India.  All three students are brilliant academics, with their own interests and academic strengths, but who often mistakenly follow their sex drives in directions that lead one to wonder : WTF? We follow Mitchell on his journeys, Madeline through her struggles in dealing with a lover that struggles with a debilitating mental illness and Leonard, who struggles himself with the mental illness. What I also loved is that Eugenides somehow manages to capture the tensions and feelings of a late teen/early 20-something involved in these sorts of emotional relationships.  It took me back to this period of my life; it was as if I had never left.

The novel itself was wordy, but I personally love that kind of novel. I love losing myself in the minute details of everyday (and the non-typical everyday living as, for instance, we see when we visit the psych wards or a laboratory colony on the Cape), so this didn't bother me all that much. In fact, I really enjoyed it. I wouldn't expect any miraculous revelations to come out of this novel; it doesn't expand the boundaries of what we know about love triangles, college or mental health issues.  And yet, I found it highly satisfying to read and complete. It's not as good as Middlesex, but most novels aren't.  This novel is definitely better than most and gives some insights.

Definitely take the time to read this one.

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