Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Eugenides' follow up to Middlesex focuses on three Brown undergraduates coming of age in the early 80s. Pretty, tall, waspy, and somewhat vacant Madeleine Hanna; brilliant, handsome, and manic-depressive Leonard; and solid, clear-eyed, religious studies student Mitchell who virtuously hopes that Maddy will one day be his wife. As the trio moves through the year after graduation (Maddy and Leonard on the Cape after a disastrous honeymoon in France and Mitchell on a gap year ending in India), they find themselves confronted by the anticlimactic nature of life, and their youthful expectations are met with semi-dull reality. What struck me about this book, and about many other novels I have been reading lately, is that the story, or 'marriage plot,' couldn't have been set in modern times. Technology has rendered the social exchanges present in TMP obsolete: Mitchell pens a letter advising Maddy not to marry Leonard, but it arrives too late and Leonard disappears on several occasions and cannot be reached. Impossible in today's era of instant accessibility. I enjoyed The Marriage Plot, but if you only read one of Eugenides' novels make it The Virgin Suicides. Click here for a full review of TMP and comparison with Mr. Eugenides' other works.