Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

This was one of my more disappointing reads of 2011. It wasn’t actually on my reading list at all, but I found myself about to board a 6-hour flight with only 50 pages to go in my current book and so I quickly picked this one up at an airport bookstore. The plot traces the twists and travails of a love triangle of sorts from the final few months of college into the first year or so after graduation. Madeleine Hanna is a privileged east-coast girl who finds herself being quick dragged down in life due to her love for Leonard, a mentally unstable man. Meanwhile, Mitchell has been head-over-heels for Madeleine for years but makes a few interesting discoveries about himself during a year long trip around the world while Madeleine and Leonard’s troubled love tale unfolds back home.

I disliked the book for several reasons, the first of which is that there is no point to the plot and no real climax. At the end, I was left feeling that I’d just spent several hours perusing a seemingly random snapshop of a given amount of time in the lives of a few people. I found the same was true, although to a lesser degree, in the author’s previous work, Middlesex. In The Marriage Plot, there were few connections between events throughout the story and even less insight into the human condition, marriage, love, or any other topic.

The plotline is also unbelievably conventional without any indication that the author intended to critique or otherwise comment on this fact. In this sense, the character of Madeleine is incredibly poorly developed–she’s a girl who wants to marry no matter the costs (although she doesn’t recognize this about herself), and we never get any sense of where this desire comes from. I assume that Eugenides’s idea was to reinvigorate the “marriage plot” for the 21st century, but I have to say that he’s far closer to Jane Austen, except without the depth.

For what it’s worth, the best written parts were Madeleine’s mini-crisis that occurs early on in the book, during her last few months of college. Whether this experience is accurate to the early 1980s (when the story is set) is debatable, but it certainly captures an under-reported experience on many campuses today. The sex scenes towards the end were also compelling, which perhaps signals that the author would’ve been better off trying for something in the chick-lit genre.