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The Marriage Plot: A Novel

The Marriage Plot: A Novel

Written by Jeffrey Eugenides

Narrated by David Pittu


The Marriage Plot: A Novel

Written by Jeffrey Eugenides

Narrated by David Pittu

ratings:
3.5/5 (131 ratings)
Length:
15 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Oct 11, 2011
ISBN:
9781427213099
Format:
Audiobook

Description

It's the early 1980s—the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

As Madeleine tries to understand why "it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in eighteenth-century France," real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes.

Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old "friend" Mitchell Grammaticus—who's been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange—resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology Laboratory on Cape Cod, but can't escape the secret responsible for Leonard's seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.

Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

A Macmillan Audio production.

Publisher:
Released:
Oct 11, 2011
ISBN:
9781427213099
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. He has written numerous short stories and essays, as well as three novels: The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot. The Virgin Suicides received great acclaim, while Middlesex won the Pulitzer Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and France’s Prix Medicis, and has sold more than 3 million copies.


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What people think about The Marriage Plot

3.4
131 ratings / 166 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    This is definitely not the best novel Mr. Eugenides has written. It's a love triangle involving college students....a good enough story, but nothing nearly as captivating as his earlier subjects. And I found that the author went into too much detail about the contents of the courses the students were taking...if I want to understand deconstructionism, I'll find a nonfiction book to explain it to me.
  • (3/5)
    Four stars for the writing, two stars for the characters so overall three stars.
  • (3/5)
    Although there were some great passages, the novel as a whole fails for me. Over-written and under edited.
  • (3/5)
    I would have liked a little bit more about literature and a little bit less about the guy with a mental illnes.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this more than I expected to based on my inability to even finish Middlesex. The three characters really annoyed me but the story line was fantastically real. I wasn't a fan of how pretentious the characters were especially in regards to how intellectual they found themselves to be and I wonder how much of it was character development and how much of it was Eugenides own voice. Regardless I can't deny that he is a wonderful author and his writing style and plot development are beautiful. This book has convinced me to give Middlesex another shot.
  • (2/5)
    All I can say is I'm not sure why everyone loved this book.
  • (1/5)
    Ugh... why? Jeffrey Eugenides' first book was about five suicidal sisters. His second was a Bildungsroman about an intersex person. His third is about... college grads trying to decide what to do with their lives. Gah, if I wanted a book like that, I'd write my memoirs. (And be completely unsurprised when no one read them.)

    First we meet Madeleine, an English major at Brown University. She is a bit of an oddity because a) she likes to read and b) she likes "unfashionable" authors like Austen, James, Eliot, and Wharton. She is very attractive, as evidenced by the men around her finding her attractive. Eugenides spends pages and pages trying to convince you how special Madeleine is. (One sign is that she uses looseleaf tea instead of teabags.) The resulting portrait is of a pretty, sweet, naive, and dull young woman.

    Despite being graced with more personality, the two male leads are not much better. Leonard is a budding scientist struggling with bipolar disorder. While his disease certainly makes him more sympathetic, it is no excuse for the way he treats Madeleine. (Madeleine pretty much puts up with his emotional abuse because the sex is so great.) Mitchell, a religious studies major, is a typical Nice Guy - the guy who becomes friends with you because he wants to fuck you. Unlike most love triangles, there is no reason to "ship" one pairing over the other.

    The worst offense The Marriage Plot commits is that it has absolutely nothing new to say. I really hope that Eugenides didn't think he was being transgressive with the ending, where Madeleine rejects both suitors and goes to graduate school. The only way that ending would have been revolutionary is if it had happened in The Twilight Saga.
  • (3/5)
    The book feels pretentiously literary like its characters : something I'd have to read for school rather than for pleasure. In any case it didn't speak to me so I skipped to the end.
  • (1/5)
    This book made me feel stupid. The author kept making references to things that I had no idea what he was talking about. Oh well. Why would I want to google everything, or look in the dictionary every five minutes? Not enjoyable to me.
  • (2/5)
    Yet another highly praised book that I just didn't like. The characters weren't people I had any empathy for or cared about in any way, shape or form. Every time I started getting into the storytelling itself the author would switch locations and take the story off on another tangent.
    A very unenjoyable read and another head scratcher as regards to what makes critics praise books that to me seem average or below average.
  • (3/5)
    I liked the first third of Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot," but then, I don't know what happened as the story sort of went off the rails and became fairly boring for the remainder of the book.The novel tells the story of Madeleine Hanna and the love triangle she is unconvincingly involved in with hunky yet mentally ill Leonard and the grating, religious character of Mitchell. I very much liked the story when it was focused on the college years -- perhaps because it was reflective of my own college experience in some ways. However, once the trio of characters graduates, the story just grinds along and doesn't really go anywhere. I've liked other books by Eugenides, so I was surprised I didn't enjoy this one more.
  • (4/5)
    Very enjoyable but not as good as Middlesex.
  • (4/5)
    This was a really enjoyable read. I liked the premise, I found the characters engaging, I was interested in their experiences, and I enjoyed Eugenides' intelligence as a writer. Set in the days leading up to college graduation and the months afterwards, it follows three college friends as they work out who they are. Madeleine is the centre of the story, Leonard and Mitchell the two men she loves and is loved by. It takes in New Jersey, the Eastern Seaboard, New York, Paris, Greece, India and Monaco. It made me look back on the end of university as I experienced it, how enormous life seemed to be, and how things didn't turn out the way I thought they would.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed Middlesex much more than this novel. However, it was a good read and made one think about one's own relationships with others and one's own place in the world. I would have liked it to have tied in more directly with her thesis and reason for the title.
  • (3/5)
    During the first half, this book felt as though Eugenides had left his oodles of research done for "Middlesex", read some of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History", some Bret Easton Ellis and really dissected and mulled over Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom".

    The second half had more flesh, yet also more pulp.

    At the same time, this book is very well-written, and by that I mean the author has a firm grip on rhythm, colouring his language and keeping parts suspenseful. Friendships and some love feels real.

    On the other hand, I'll say it's a lot of research into biology - cells - which feels a bit asperger-ish. We get the metaphors; I think. It could have used a firmer grip and more editing.

    Kudos to Eugenides for name-dropping "The Paris Review".
  • (4/5)
    In the spring of 1982, Madeline (Maddie) Hanna is about to graduate from Brown University with a degree in English literature. She has been especially drawn to the writing of Austen, Eliot, and James, with their novels based on ?marriage plots.? Also graduating is Mitchell Grammaticus, a religious studies major who plans to seek enlightenment?or at least a short-term research job?in India. Maddie and Mitchell dated briefly as sophomores, but she broke up with him because he wanted a more serious relationship than she was ready for. Mitchell still pines after Maddie, while she is in love with Leonard Bankhead, a brilliant but seriously disturbed physics major who is also graduating and with whom Maddie had an intense fling during the winter of their senior year.?The Marriage Plot? traces the lives of Maddie, Mitchell, and Leonard through the years just following graduation. The books addresses big themes, one of which is the difficulty of finding one?s way in the world, even for young adults who, with a degree from an Ivy League university, would appear to have it made. Mitchell tries?and fails spectacularly?to find grace while serving at Mother Teresa?s Missionary of Charity in Calcutta. Maddie tries, and fails, to play the role of supportive wife to Leonard, who in turn struggles and fails to capitalize on his scientific genius while coping with manic-depression.Another theme of ?The Marriage Plot? is the parallel between religiosity and insanity. In a particularly explicit example of this, while traveling in India, Mitchell meets a devotee of the spiritual leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who tells him, matter-of-factly, that ?[p]eople levitate.? Much later, after Mitchell has returned to the US and has run into Maddie and Leonard at a party in New York, Leonard, now seriously depressed, describes to Mitchell an experience he had in Europe on his honeymoon, where he ?was looking up into the starry sky when suddenly he had the feeling that he could lift off into space, if he wanted to, [and] as soon as the idea occurred to him, it . . . happened: he was suddenly in space, floating past the planet Saturn.?A third theme involves perspectives on class and wealth. Eugenides depicts the contrast between upper and working class Americans (Maddie and Mitchell), and then puts it in context by depicting the difference between Mitchell and the extremely poor residents of Calcutta he meets.?The Marriage Plot? is very well written: Maddie is certainly channeling Eugenides when she says that ?a writer should work harder writing a book than [the reader does} reading it.? But in the end, ?The Marriage Plot? is not wholly satisfying. In contrast to ?Middlesex,? which had an expansive story spanning decades and history that impacted millions of people, ?The Marriage Plot? at times feel claustrophobic. Perhaps that?s because the three main characters are each experiencing their own forms of claustrophobia: Mitchell unable to escape the bounds of his corporeality to achieve the enlightenment he so seeks, Maddie unable to escape the bounds of a bad marriage, and Leonard unable to escape the bounds of his broken mind.
  • (3/5)
    Eugenides always takes me a while to get through, and I felt like I was trudging through this a lot of the time. Really, I'm not super sure how I actually felt about this. I did a lot of falling asleep while reading late, and I think I would have liked it more if I were able to give it my full attention.
  • (2/5)
    An early-80s love triangle among college seniors made slightly more interesting by throwing in a severe case of bipolar disorder. Actually, that part of it really resonated with me: as a bipolar sufferer myself (though with far milder symptoms), I can sympathize with Leonard's troubles. As the wife of a man with OCD, I can sympathize with Madeleine's dilemmas. Mitchell's experiences with religion and poverty did not cover any new ground, and his selfishness with regard to Madeleine was tiresome. This isn't a book you read for the plot, because there isn't a whole lot: you read it for the characters. If the characters are compelling, you want to know more about them. For me, this book was mostly a way to pass the time. The ending was kind of unsatisfying, but I don't know how else it could have ended.
  • (3/5)
    A well-written and entertaining book that is occasionally thought-provoking -- but not as often as it strives to be. If you are nostalgic for that time right after college when you are just discovering the meaning of adult love and finding out who you are and where your path leads in this world, then this book will appeal to you. Otherwise, it will sometimes feel trite and naive.
  • (2/5)
    I should not have read this so close to The Interestings. They are the same book. Lovely prose about uninteresting people with a story told in multiple points-of-view via an omniscient narrative with an unhealthy dependence on flashback. Both books could have been more compelling, if they'd merely picked a character and stuck with them. Instead, everyone is superficial and glossed over, with mismatched storylines and zero momentum.

    No more contemporary literary fiction for me. None! I don't care how many people sing a book's praises. No more. I swear it.
  • (4/5)


    The elitism and esoteric references agitated me, yet.....I was into the story. Characters revealed themselves--not so much transformations into adulthood as peeling away the layers.
  • (4/5)
    He has done it again! I must say that Eugenides is a very talented author--all of his works are unique, poignant, and thought provoking. In The Virgin Suicides he tackles suicide, Middlesex hermaphrodism, and now, mental health disorders--and love.

    The three main characters find themselves in a love triangle when we first meet them on their graduation day. There is Madeline, the girl who loves books and wishes to specialize in Victorian books. Leonard, a biologist who we learn is manic depressive. And Mitchell, madly in love with Madeline, but goes to India to volunteer for Mother Teresa for a year, hoping Madeline will leave Leonard and marry him.

    At the start of the book, Madeline is heartbroken because, when she confessed her love to Leonard, he blew her off--and she left. Leonard, thwarted by his emotional past wasn't retreads to say those words back to her, but didn't want her to leave either--at that time he ditched his meds and had himself a bipolar bender.

    He's hospitalized and she comes back to him....and they live happily ever after....NOT!! You'll just have to read it to find out what happens. You won't be disappointed, although you may hate the characters....
  • (2/5)
    Madeleine, east coast Ivy League girl, And her unlikely love triangle. Tiresome characters in search of a plot which finally begins to be vaguely interesting two thirds of the way through the book. An excellent handbook on how NOT to make decisions.
  • (4/5)
    My book group was lukewarm about this tale of young Ivy Leaguers in love. Set in the early nineteen eighties, the central plot element is the love triangle of Madeleine Hanna, a sheltered English major, Leonard Bankhead, her bipolar scientist boyfriend, and Mitchell Grammaticus, a religion major who is desperately in love with Madeleine. Most of my book club members hated the beginning of the book, set at Brown University. They found the extended narrative about a semiotics seminar tediously academic. I, on the other hand, was intrigued, and hoped for more stuff on semiotics, even though I understand it not a whit. The book lagged for me in the middle, as Mitchell goes on a religious pilgrimage to India and Madeline and Leonard become a couple. My interest picked up again when the story turned to Leonard and his struggle with his illness. The descriptions of his manic periods were truly harrowing. And if we're taking a poll, yes, I think the ending was good.
  • (4/5)
    Although this book lagged a bit in places, I enjoyed it. I thought the ending was wonderful, and for me, unexpected. Not quite up to the quality of "Middlesex" but good nonetheless.
  • (1/5)



    I was hooked for the first hundred pages or so, but quickly lost interest. Didn't even finish.
  • (4/5)
    Thoroughly enjoyable if you went to a northeast liberal arts college. Otherwise will certainly come off as snobbish and bobo intellectual.
  • (4/5)
    Read this because I enjoyed another book by this author, Middlesex. This started out kind of slow, and I really didn't like the main character, Madeleine. But as it went on I actually realized that the characters were written very realistically. The ending surprised me, and I was glad because I assumed all along I knew how it would end.
  • (4/5)
    Another brilliant, difficult, gripping, meandering story from Eugenides, my new favourite author. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, but the thoughtfulness of the prose once again kept me reading. English major Madeleine Hanna is loved by the brilliantly named Mitchell Grammaticus - I would marry any man with that surname! - but falls instead for manic-depressive scientist Leonard. That's it, really. They graduate, mostly, and Madeleine follows Leonard to look after him, while Mitchell goes travelling, trying to find religion. The mini-rants on feminism and different types of Eastern and Western worship are a lot like the boring chapters in Tolstoy or Hugo that Eugenides himself references, making the return to actual plot, characterisation and dialogue all the more enjoyable. I could empathise with Madeleine to a point - certainly majoring in English for a love of reading and being at a loss what else to do - but her devotion to Leonard baffled me. I'm glad that Mitchell supplied the perfect ending for her story.
  • (2/5)
    I don't understand the accolades for this novel. Sure it winks at a lot of literary precedent, but so what? I read it all the way through only because of lack of gumption.