The Marriage Plot

First, I must ask a question.  Is there some sort of a competition among those who aspire to write contemporary literature to see who can slip in maximum references to mental illness (bonus points for low points of depression) and kinky sex (bonus points for combining mental illness with kinky sex)?  I ask because I’ve been reading several of these types of books in a row and it seems like a sort of bingo game.

The Marriage Plot is not at all the book I expected it to be.  After reading numerous reviews and the plot summary I was expecting some sort of a modern comment on the novel.  A parallel focus on the Victorian novel and the contemporary story.  I also expected, given that Jeffrey Eugenides is the author, an expertly written novel of even greater skill than Middlesex.  After all, he had enough time to write it.

There were times that I enjoyed this book.  There were sections of prose so beautifully written that I wanted to cut them out and put them on my wall (I refrained, since this is a library book).  There were parts of the story so compelling I could hardly put the book down.

However, there were also parts of the book where I was quite certain Eugenides noticed he was falling behind in the above-mentioned point system and so had to make things spin more and more out of control.

Was there a love triangle?  Sort of.  However, given the characters I certainly had little interest in the triangle.  I didn’t particularly like Madeleine and thought her relationships with both the men of the triangle were disastrous.  Mitchell was somewhat likeable, but I got the feeling I should think him incredibly deep, when I often just found him annoying.  Leonard was the worst character of all.  I really grasped to find anything I liked about him.  It probably didn’t help that I (for some odd reason) pictured him as the character Zach in Gilmore Girls.

The book had moments of brilliance, but overall I didn’t think it held together as a novel.  The plot wasn’t compelling and the characters were lacklustre.  Eugenides writing was, by times, excellent and, by times, boorish.  I will look forward to his next book and hope that he finds a plot more worthy (and perhaps less depressing).

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