Jeffrey Eugenides, author of the acclaimed The Virgin Suicides and the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex, has completed yet another masterful work in The Marriage Plot, in which he explores the lives of three college students at Brown University leading up to and following a little over a year after graduation day.
The Marriage Plot takes its namesake from the driving storylines of some of the great Victorian novels (Madeleine, the female lead, writes her senior thesis on the death of this theme in literature), while Eugenides writes the antithesis in this novel, a story of exploration of the self both within and outside of marriage and other interpersonal relationships. The story is set in the early 1980s, but the economic, political, and social climates of the novel make it feel eerily contemporary.
Madeleine is an English major from an educated, well-to-do family (her father was the president of a small college in New Jersey). Her love life had not been extensive or particularly rewarding until she met Leonard, a bright, intellectual Biology major in her semiotics class during her senior year.
Mitchell turned to religious studies during his time at Brown. He had met Madeleine during his first semester there on an occasion he could not forget. These three characters, their interests, and interactions with each other form the base of the story.
Eugenides takes the diversity of his characters (their families, upbringings, personal baggage, issues, and interests) and weaves a compelling, intelligent, and realistic story.
From the subtle sensations of a blossoming interest in someone, to the bonds of affection and/or attraction, however seemingly unexplainable or inexcusable, The Marriage Plot effectively portrays many stages of the human condition with regards to relationships.
In Madeleine's relationship with Leonard, we see a progression in the face of adversity with no lack of doubt along the way. In Mitchell's search for religion and himself, without the love of the woman he's convinced himself he would marry, we see an unanswered but sincere journey. As the story rises and sets, Jeffrey Eugenides has created a great novel in The Marriage Plot .The reader slowly comes to relate, hate, disagree with, or admire the characters as they progress through this honest effort to portray the human journey.
The novel may go to some weird places, but life can be like that.