JEFFREY EUGENIDES THE MARRIAGE PLOT PDF

Not even J. Unlike the manic-depressive Leonard, who veers between high-wire ups and brooding downs, this novel very much occupies the safe middle ground; there is nothing very bravura about it, though Mr. As depicted by Mr. Eugenides has a way of belaboring his points, and the reader soon begins to feel as claustrophobic as Madeleine is suffering through classes about Derrida and Barthes and Baudrillard. When the author turns from campus politics to the romantic geometry of the Madeleine-Leonard-Mitchell triangle, the narrative gears really engage.

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Mass self-slaughter in The Virgin Suicides , incest and hermaphroditism in Middlesex : in both cases, the elements of what might have been merely freakish narratives were transformed by a combination of witty, vigorous prose and a cinematic sense of social and historic context into something unexpectedly capacious and pleasurable.

The Marriage Plot largely though not entirely dispenses with the morbid element. Its cast consists mostly of bright, go-getting young Ivy Leaguers, and its storyline follows their love entanglements and spiritual crises during the early s as they pursue and escape each other through a variety of colourful locations that stretch from Cape Cod to Monte Carlo to Calcutta.

With one exception there is nothing seriously the matter with any of them. It's customary to cheer when an author moves outside his comfort zone, but I'm not sure it was such a great idea in this case. In tilting the focus so emphatically towards the wholesome and ordinary, Eugenides seems to have restricted his access to his own considerable powers.

The lively intelligence of the earlier books has little to grapple with in these mostly unremarkable characters as they make their intellectual and geographic grand tours, and consequently much of the writing veers between effortful smartness and a kind of half-hearted blah.

They don't, to me, suggest an imagination on fire. The story itself, a post-modern take on 19th-century romance, is built around three characters who meet at Brown University's semiotics class in Madeleine, the ingenue, is an English major from a prosperous Wasp family with a nice home in the suitably twee-sounding town of Prettybrook, New Jersey.

Mitchell and Leonard, the men she must choose between I'm simplifying, but it boils down to this , come from humbler backgrounds and study religion and science respectively. Mitchell, well-behaved and presentable, plays the Mr Knightley role: patiently besotted with Madeleine, who flirts with him occasionally but prefers to think of him as her treasured friend. Leonard is the wild card: a 6ft 3in polymath who lives in squalor, writes brilliantly so we're assured , is "historically hilarious", irresistible to women, and savagely self-destructive.

He also turns out to be clinically bipolar Eugenides's one concession to his old interest in pathological conditions but Madeleine marries him all the same, and therein lies the book's main source of tension: how is "positive, privileged, sheltered, exemplary" Madeleine, who "instinctively avoided unstable people", going to acquit herself, having chosen this loose cannon for her mate?

Will she stay the course? Will the long-suffering Mitchell, trying out various forms of religion and do-gooding including a stint with Mother Teresa in India while he endures his rejection, begin to look more tempting when Leonard goes off his meds and starts cracking up? Framing and shaping this story is a sustained inquiry into the great themes of love and marriage, and the question of how they might be rescued for contemporary literature.

Madeleine discovers Roland Barthes's A Lover's Discourse , and her growing infatuation with Leonard is punctuated by apposite quotations from this famous deconstruction of yearning, while the novel itself squares up to the classics of marital fiction, notably Emma and The Portrait of a Lady. It's a likably quixotic challenge; but I think it's premised on a misconception about those earlier books.

What makes them great, surely, isn't just that marriage back then was a much higher-stakes game than it is now, but that their heroines are explored at such astounding emotional and moral depth, and articulated with such wit and precision, that just about anything that happens to them becomes rivetingly consequential.

They would be no less interesting to us, I suspect, if the options of divorce and prenups were available to them. By the same token, I don't think the removal of those options would make Madeleine and her suitors any more interesting than they are, which is to say: moderately.

What do we ever really know about these three? We know about the books they read, the music they listen to, the things they consider cool or uncool. We're given plenty of interesting specialist information about their more arcane pursuits: Leonard's yeast experiments at the lab on Cape Cod where he gets a fellowship, for instance, or Madeleine's progress through the lit crit fads of the 80s.

But information isn't the same as insight, and it seems to me that a couple of crucial things are missing. There's a fair amount of irony at the expense of undergraduate pretension and holier-than-thou posturing, and some of it spills over to the three protagonists. The presentation of Mitchell, especially, is so uncertainly poised between solemn and mocking that it's impossible to tell whether his gestures — hanging a cross round his neck, intoning the Jesus prayer — are intended as those of an earnestly agonised truth-seeker or of a slightly narcissistic sap.

The other missing piece, more important perhaps, is the kind of action that gives dramatic reality to the complexities of a character's inner life. But the other two seem under-realised. There's a moment when Mitchell gets a letter from Madeleine and thinks that "she may have looked normal on the outside but once you'd seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside".

What we actually see of Madeleine seems rather ruthlessly uncomplicated, in fact, and furthermore the book as a whole seems to vindicate her chilly instinct to avoid "unstable people". If she learns anything, it's that it's best not to stray too far from Prettybrook. Her tale makes a quick and sprightly read, but it's not — to borrow a word from the world of its literary predecessors — especially "edifying". And it certainly doesn't play to the idiosyncratic strengths of its gifted author.

Book of the week Jeffrey Eugenides. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides — review. Illustration by Clifford Harper at agraphia. James Lasdun. Published on Sat 15 Oct L ooking back over Jeffrey Eugenides's first two novels, I wondered if a part of their enormous appeal might have been the way they brought together two apparently incompatible registers: the dank morbidness of the subject matter, and the graceful exuberance of the style.

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The great epics sang of war, the novel of marriage. Sexual equality, good for women, had been bad for the novel. And divorce had undone it completely. What would it matter whom Emma [Bovary] married if she could file for separation later?

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Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book.

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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides – review

Mass self-slaughter in The Virgin Suicides , incest and hermaphroditism in Middlesex : in both cases, the elements of what might have been merely freakish narratives were transformed by a combination of witty, vigorous prose and a cinematic sense of social and historic context into something unexpectedly capacious and pleasurable. The Marriage Plot largely though not entirely dispenses with the morbid element. Its cast consists mostly of bright, go-getting young Ivy Leaguers, and its storyline follows their love entanglements and spiritual crises during the early s as they pursue and escape each other through a variety of colourful locations that stretch from Cape Cod to Monte Carlo to Calcutta. With one exception there is nothing seriously the matter with any of them. It's customary to cheer when an author moves outside his comfort zone, but I'm not sure it was such a great idea in this case. In tilting the focus so emphatically towards the wholesome and ordinary, Eugenides seems to have restricted his access to his own considerable powers. The lively intelligence of the earlier books has little to grapple with in these mostly unremarkable characters as they make their intellectual and geographic grand tours, and consequently much of the writing veers between effortful smartness and a kind of half-hearted blah.

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