Sunday, 24 June 2012

Book #59 The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Marriage Plot

In the opening of this novel Jeffrey Eugenides sets forth what is meant by "The Marriage Plot" via his lead character Madeline who is an English graduate. "The Marriage Plot" is the sort of novel that was written by Austen in the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and Madeline's tutor espouses the belief that "a marriage plot" was the epitome of what a novel ought to be about and that a novel isn't a good one without one.

Thus Eugenides begins his own 1980's set "marriage plot novel"in which heroine Madeline must choose between her angst riddled relationship with intense but unpredictable bipolar sufferer Leonard and sensible theologian suitor  Mitchell whose desire for her she has somewhat exploited.

All are graduates from Rhode Island Ivy League institution Brown and the novel is deeply imbued with academia, from semiotics to biology to theology, there is a lot of intense intellectual discussion from earnest young people, because I am in some ways that sort of person, this aspect of the novel didn't bother me or at least didn't bother me to the point of annoyance but I imagine it could prove irritating for other people less concerned in the lofty ideals and bombastic opinions of the educationally privileged. 

I believe that his depiction of Leonard was a fairly good portrait of the average bipolar experience and think it might prove interesting for people wanting to know more about that experience. As a result of personal interests I preferred Mitchell, nominally Greek Orthodox but with a developing interest in Catholicism who travels through Europe and India having, for a change, what doesn't feel like a cliched spiritual journey.

The problem with this novel is that as I realised I was reaching the end, I thought to myself "but, this novel isn't nearly finished" the ending, like a film which suddenly cuts to black, is abrupt, though the marriage plot is resolved the novel is left feeling like someone cut the end off with scissors with one character in particular having zero resolution in terms of plot. As a separate issue I found his general comments about English undergraduates somewhat insulting, having been one myself once.

My first words upon finishing were "disappointing conclusion" which is a shame for a well written novel I was up til that point really enjoying . 8/10

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