The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let me get this out of the way - I'm a Jeffrey Eugenides fan. Although I didn't love The Virgin Suicides, I understand why its so highly regarded. It was a beautifully written book but just not completely up my alley. On the other hand, Middlesex blew me away. Five stars, one of my all time favorite novels. So, I've been eagerly awaiting the publication of this novel. I was intrigued by the subject he'd chosen to focus on but had a tiny bit of trepidation that the subject wouldn't wow me. But, I was wrong. This book is no Middlesex but its very good.
Eugenides' writing is just fantastic. He is clearly a good writer. No doubt about it ... the writing in this novel is clever, wry, and compelling. It drew me in, kept me interested and didn't let go of me even once. I never felt let down by the plot - I think it was beautifully constructed and gave the novel such a great sense of flow and movement.
The novel feels old fashioned in comparison to Middlesex. Given the subject matter and the focus on semiotics and the marriage plot, that makes sense. His deconstruction of the marriage plot in order to make it work in the modern world was so fascinating to me. This novel is pretty non conventional but in the best of ways. Early in the book, I kept wondering to myself why I was enjoying the book so much because it definitely felt old fashioned and I typically am not a fan of old fashioned. Yet, Eugenides pulled it off. He kept me curious, he kept me engaged.
What really stood out for me in this novel is the plotline around living with manic depression. I have a very personal connection to that particular disorder and I felt that Eugenides brought the realities of the disorder to life very well. It was a powerful view into the experience of living with someone who is manic and/or depressed while also giving perspective on what the actual experience of being manic and/or depressed feels like. This is one aspect of the book that I think was outstanding.
I'm not sure, however, that this is a novel for everyone. It's unapologetic about being old fashioned. It certainly isn't a hard book to read. It's not difficult in that way but I think it requires thought and reflection on the part of the reader. It doesn't just tie everything up in a pretty bow. I felt as if I was caught in the web of a master storyteller who also challenged me to go deeper and think about life, love, relationships, literature and adulthood in new and different ways. But, I can also see why the very things that I loved about the novel could put off others.
All in all, I really liked this novel. I recommend it to most readers. And I can't wait to see what Euginides has in store for us next.
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