The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Title/Author: The Marriage Plot / Jeffrey Eugenides

Publisher: FSG New York
Pages: 406
ISBN 13: 978-0-374-53325-0

In a nutshell
I’d say this novel is a combination of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer and One Day by David Nicholls. It’s a love story with lots of teenage angst. What helped it score a notch higher than the other two is of course the language and the literary theories that revolved around The Marriage Plot.

The story concerns three college friends from Brown University who graduated from Brown University in 1982. The friends – Madeleine, Leonard, and Mitchell, are ‘victims’ of a love triangle. Mitchell loved Madeline, who loved Leonard who’s mentally depressed.

Madeline tries to accept Leonard’s condition, while Leonard tries to keep what’s left of his ‘sanity’ by trying to hold down a job and his relationship, and Mitchell, the hopeless romantic, tries to get over Madeline and find spiritual enlightenment.

The story follows them in their senior year at Brown and then into the real world as they go on a journey of self discovery.

What I liked
Eugenides’s depiction of Leonard was really, really good. His evocation of depression and mental illness was done so well it was disturbing. Leonard found solace in his ‘dark moods’ and as he embraced them, he fell deeper and deeper into depression. I could feel Leonard’s pain, confusion, and emotional highs and lows. I could empathise with him. It made me realise that it’s wrong for us, bystanders to assume that depression can be easily ‘handled’ by asking the victim to ‘change’ their perception, to ‘accuse’ them of not wanting to get well because they don’t want to. I think it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t; it’s difficult.

In Leonard’s words,
“The brain thinks it’s dying, and so the body thinks it’s dying, and then the brain registers this, and they go back and forth like that in a feedback loop.” Leonard leaned towards her. “That’s what’s happening to me right now. That’s what’s happening to me every minute of the day. And that’s why I don’t answer when you ask me if I had a good time at the party.”

Some favourite quotes
Heartbreak is funny to everyone but the heartbroken. (p.82)
People don’t save other people. People save themselves. (p. 124)
You can’t get clean from depression. Depression be like a bruise that never goes away. A bruise in your mind. You just got too be careful not to touch where it hurts. It always be there, though. (p. 260)

Disappointed that…
it is nowhere near Middlesex – the style (language), scope, depth; it lacked the elements that made me love Middlesex so much. The Marriage Plot was a little ‘flat’ and not as compelling as Middlesex. It did have some beautiful moments though, and quotes which I liked and that kept me going at first, but after that, all I cared was how it was going to end.

Good stories make me want to enjoy the journey, but this, I just want to know the ending and nevermind who got Madeline (who shares the same name as a character she loves – Madeline, created by Ludwig Bemelmans); I am neither Team Jacob (Mitchell) nor Team Edward (Leonard), as long as nobody died. (Although at one point I thought Leonard would commit suicide.)

(By the way, Madeline reminds me of Bella from Twilight. Eugh!)

My verdict? 3/5

This book might interest literary enthusiasts who are into literary theories and theorists such as Derrida, Tolstoy and Barthes (A Lover’s Discourse, Madeline’s favourite reading material). I’m sure they’d have a different kind of review and/or comment.

Once the first avowal has been made, “I love you” has no meaning whatever. – Barthes

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