Tag: A Lover’s Discourse

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Posted December 12, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literary Fiction / 0 Comments

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey EugenidesTitle: The Marriage Plot (Goodreads)
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Published: Harper Collins, 2011
Pages: 406
Genres: Literary Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Marriage Plot is a coming of age novel that explores the pains that comes with life experience. The novel follows three Brown University friends beginning their senior year and then life after graduation. Madeleine Hanna is an English major with an interest in the Victorian novel and the importance of the marriage plot within all the greatest English novels.  Leonard Morten a biologist, who is charismatic and intelligent, but constantly dealing with either unlimited energy or sinking moods. Mitchell Grammaticus studied religion and, while acts strange, has a fascination with Christian mysticism and the idea of Madeleine.

The Marriage Plot finally shows just how a love triangle plot should work. The book shifts between the three protagonists to show the inner thoughts and desires. This is a modern romance; but not in the way you expect. The Marriage Plot asks the reader the question; are the great love stories dead? Did they die off in the nineteenth century? Or does the new world of feminism and sexual freedom offer something completely different. Jeffrey Eugenides explores the ideas of contemporary relationships with such love and care that you feel like you truly know these characters.

As the love triangle between Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell slowly unfolds, I find myself thinking that maybe Mitchell is the better choice but her attraction to Leonard just seems to get stronger. Mitchell is stuck in the friend’s zone but on reflection he never really pursued Madeleine the way she wanted and lost his chance when he had it. When she discovers Leonard’s mental illness I felt that really cemented their relationship. Sure it was going to be hard, but I think Madeleine’s guilt and the feeling of being needed really shaped their relationship.

The whole novel played around with a whole lot of different literary devices, mixing that with all the themes throughout this book really made this book stand out for me. The ideas of love were really explored well here, helping the characters to discover the difference between their fantasies and reality as well as the need for physical, intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Even Mitchell facing the discernment between the seminary and the possibility of romance has an aspect of love that often isn’t explored; do you give up your passion for a chance at romance?

The characters are so real and I feel like I know them so well; this is what made this book at time frustrating but then it was what made this book so great. While there are a lot of ideas of love throughout the book, the one that really worked for me was Jeffrey Eugenides and Madeleine’s love of literature. I finished this book and wanted to go and read A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes just because Madeleine speaks so fondly of it, the kind of fondness that must truly come from the author.

This really feels like a labour of love by the author, I felt such a connection with the characters and the ideas within this book. Even the effort Eugenides put into bring out the beauty of the situations really was awe inspiring. Eugenides writes beautiful prose; well he did in this book, I’m not sure if it is the love he has for the book, or if he has that for all his novels but I’m keen to dive into Middlesex or The Virgin Suicides sometime soon.

Let’s face it, it is rare to find a book that affects you and you feel so passionately about, so finding The Marriage Plot has really made my reading journey feel worth it. I do have a few books that I hold in such high regard; FrankensteinCrime and Punishment and I would like to welcome The Marriage Plot to join them. It just feels different with this novel, I feel like I’ve discovered my softer side. I would love to know if people know of other books similar to this that I might enjoy and I also want to hear about the books that effect you in a deep and wonderful way.