First, some background:
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer-prize winning novel about an amazing family and the journey of a gene, is one of my favorite books. I read it about once a year and fall in love all over again. Actually I don’t even read it so much as devour it. As I’m reading, I experience the feeling of wanting to read it as fast as possible and not wanting it to end. (There should be a word for that feeling.)
When I saw Eugenides had another book coming out. I was so excited, I had it sent to my Kindle the day it came out.
For those of you who love Middlesex as much as I do, I’ll just break the bad news to you now: The Marriage Plot is nowhere near as good as Middlesex. Now that’s fine, because not many books will ever be that good, and I didn’t really expect it to be. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how different The Marriage Plot would be.
Not necessarily bad different. Just different.
The title of the book refers to the main character Madeleine’s honor’s thesis, which she was working on just before the beginning of the book. The book opens on the day of her graduation from Brown University in the early 1980s; she wakes up with a hangover and lot of regret. From there, we meet Leonard, her brilliant ex-boyfriend and Mitchell, a good friend who has been in love with her for much of college.
The book is, most simply, a love triangle, but it doesn’t read like one at all. “Love triangle” makes me think of that god-awful movie “Something Borrowed,” or perhaps an episode of Jerry Springer. The love triangle was to this book like the pyramid is to the dollar bill: small, tucked away, and just not the main thing you think about. I got so swept up in the characters — the book is told from all three main characters’ points of view — and their issues that I sort of stopped seeing them as related and just felt like I was reading their individual stories. It wasn’t until the end — and oh, what a nice ending! — that it all sort of clicked for me.
Maybe it’s just the fact that I was reading it on the Kindle, and so I lost the feel of the actual book — the tone set by the cover and the description on the back — but I kept forgetting I was reading a Jeffrey Eugenides book. The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking it was a Jonathan Franzen novel. Again, that’s not a bad thing because both Freedom and The Corrections are two of the best books I’ve read in a long time, but it was sort of odd. But much like Franzen’s books, I felt like this book was a lot of prose. The prose is good and entertaining and makes you think, so that’s not bad or anything, but there just wasn’t as much dialogue or action as some novels. It was — and again, I don’t mean this in a bad way — dense.
That density, combined with the main plots, meant the book book isn’t exactly an easy read. A lot of the plot relates to the three main characters’ classes and studies…and, unfortunately, some of their classes and studies were just way over my head. I had to slow down and re-read things, taking as much as I could from contextual clues. Ultimately, it didn’t really interfere with my understanding of the plot or the characters, but I do think it’s worth mentioning; reading this, I was glad that the Kindle could link me to a Wikipedia page at any given time.
I know this will be a popular book club book and I think it’s a great choice for book clubs; it’s a hard book for me to really generalize, but the major themes and situations presented are ones I’d love to discuss with other people who have read it.
On the whole, I’d definitely recommend it; perhaps not in my typical OMG OBSESSED way that I’d recommend some other books, but then again, not every book is going to be my favorite book. I definitely think it’s worth reading and I’d love to hear what other people who have read it/are reading it think of it!
Oh and by the way, I’m now back to my standard non-fiction, currently reading Mary Roach’s latest book Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. Mary Roach never lets me down and this book is LOL-funny and so interesting. I’ll probably write about it in a couple weeks, so if anyone is looking for a fun/smart/interesting/fast read, check it out and then we can discuss!