The Marriage Plot
by: Jeffrey Eugenides
This book was a lot of fun, and a bit of a surprising departure from Middlesex, but every bit as good. (I mean, heck, it’s been named Best Book of 2011 by a variety of sources.)
Actually, this is the book I wish I had in college, when I was reading up on critical theory. This book would have made all that so much more interesting and inviting – it even inspired me to do a quick refresher and wikipedia a bunch of theorists to learn about their lives and ideas. (Don’t tell my old professors.)
Anyway, the book. The Marriage Plot is set in the early 1980s, where three students – the beautiful Madeleine Hanna, charismatic Leonard Bankhead, and earnest Mitchell Grammaticus – are studying together at Brown. Madeleine’s professor contends that the Novel died with Jane Austen and her ilk, and that what was good for women’s rights, ultimately killed the marriage as plot. That very idea gets tested as Madeleine, and incurable romantic, navigates her own way through college and into real life, torn by these two very different men who have their own journeys to explore.
This book is both light-hearted and deep, witty and wry, sweet, with just a touch of bitter irony. Plus you learn a bit along the way! If you’ve ever read and loved Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder, this is a book for you. The beginning third, especially, is very much like Sophie’s World - for adults.