Jeffrey Eugenides first 2 novels , the Virgin Suicides and Middlesex have been on my must get round to reading list for ages, but for some reason they always got discarded in the 3 for 2 hunt at Waterstones.
The Marriage Plot, his third book, has been a tad over hyped but unlike Jonathan Franzen's Freedom , this one is well worth it.
The plot centres around the classic love triangle. Boy 1 (Mitchell) loves Girl (Madeleine) who wants to be best friends because she hasn't really ever had a real male friend and anyway she loves boy 2 (Leonard) who ...suffers from manic depression. Okay so maybe it isn't the classic love triangle structure and that is what makes the book so good. The plot continually veers off into unexpected places.
We meet the 3 characters on the day that they are due to graduate and first journey back though each of their histories that brings them to this point and the major decisions they make, the actions they take and the consequences that ripple forward into their futures. We then follow the 3 of them, Mitchell to Europe and then India helping in Mother Teresa's hospital and struggling with theology, Leonard to a place as a lab technician in highly regarded scientific community and struggling with his illness, Madeleine to caring for Leonard and struggling with her love for him.
On one level the book is a straight forward relationship study with situations that are instantly recognisable on the other level it is very smart , to the extent that some of the early chapters with Madeleine studying Semiotics had me feeling distinctly thick and regretting I didn't do English at Poly.
All 3 of the characters are rich and complex and if not exactly likable, they do create a sense of empathy, aided by Eugenides tendency to jump back and forth in time.
The title comes from the theory that marriage was the dominant theme of 19th century fiction , that it was the only successful route to closure for women, either to live happily ever after or to a life of endurance. With that in mind the ending is just so spot on that leaves a great sense of satisfaction, like being pleasnatly full after a good meal
A book that engages , entertains and enlightens , what more could you ask for.
You can buy the Marriage Plot here