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Instead of the three generations featured in Eugenides' Pulitzer winning "Middlesex," "The Marriage Plot" presents three individuals: Madeleine Hanna, an attractive, unconfident WASP; Leonard Bankhead, her on-and-off brilliant and brooding boyfriend; and Mitchell Grammaticus, a Michigan Greek who yearns in alternation for Madeleine and for God. The novel opens on the day the three graduate from Brown, returns to back story, then follows their first year in the "real world". Seeking sanctity, Mitchell heads to Europe and India; the other two keep house on Cape Cod, where Leonard studies yeast in a genetics lab and Madeleine applies to graduate school.

The novel contains a marriage but concerns itself neither with matrimony nor love; at heart, it is a coming-of-age drama that possesses the joys and pains of lived experience. With sympathy, modulation and deftness, Eugenides gives immediacy to Mitchell's struggle with spirituality, to Leonard's battle against mental illness and to Madeleine and Leonard's tenuous relationship. But, despite a wry, engaging and beautifully constructed story, "The Marriage Plot" sells its characters short. Mitchell's religious exploration grows tedious and ultimately gets dismissed as a sublimation of his desire for Madeline. And, though the novel's point of view alternates, Leonard receives only a single section before it virtually shuts out his voice.

Madeline, the supposed protagonist who initially seems to be on an interesting journey to maturity, eventually recedes behind Leonard's needs. No journey comes to fruition; she never discovers her vocation, which leaves the reader unable to imagine her as an adult. Perhaps that's the point of this deconstructionist novel but, if so, such obscurity comes at the cost of a truly enjoyable read.
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on June 17, 2014
The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex are books of incredible depth. They can be re-read over and over, and still the reader gets pleasure from the story, from the prose and from the overarching themes. The Marriage Plot, though well-written, does not come close to the depth of the Author's other two books. The protagonists are boring, the setting is boring and the action, of what there is, is boring. The Virgin Suicides was a in-depth examination of isolation, angst and suburbia - the Marriage Plot was an examination of vaguely rich people sort of interacting with or beside each other. I had high expectations of this book, and was ultimately disappointed.
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on May 28, 2015
I picked this book up based on my appreciation of Eugenides previous work. However, this effort is an epic fail. By page 44 I had some serious doubts. At page 66 I felt like I was trying to wade through mud. At page 100 I threw the book in the garbage... normally I resell books but I actually don't want anyone else to suffer as I did.
Mostly this is Eugenides showing off his obscure literary supremacy. Boring, self-important, bland characters. Save your money and if you get a copy of this for free, then know that the gifter hates you.
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on March 6, 2013
I was really looking forward to diving into this book - made it to the 1/2 way point and just couldn't go on.
Tedious is the word that comes to mind.
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on May 13, 2015
I’m always very cautious when I read a literary fiction book. I know that I won’t like some things of it. I imagine that the ending could be very sad. It still ends up that sometimes I attempt to read one of these books and sometimes I’m lucky. This time I’ve been lucky.
I liked this novel. I couldn’t give it the fifth star because of some negative aspects that I couldn’t ignore and that reduced my enjoyment of the book.
But I prefer to start talking about what’s good in this book.
First of all the prose is wonderful. Despite the length and the countless digressions, the text flows well. For writers like me reading books like this entertains and is an opportunity to enrich their prose.
The plot itself is anything but predictable. The book, which at first glance may seem like a romance novel with a love triangle, is actually a book about love, meant as the subject and not as the purpose of the story. The fact of not being inserted within a genre in itself makes it unpredictable, but the way it is built makes you wonder what might happen in the next page and especially to which character will the story shift.
The characters are so deepened that it seems they are real, despite their excesses.
Added to this is the presence of plenty of interesting information, within the digressions mentioned earlier. Some might perceive them as info-dump, but in my opinion they are an essential part in the characterisation of the characters and the setting. After reading this book you have the impression of having learned something new and this is one aspect that I really appreciate in fiction. In particular, the reader is given the opportunity to take a look at the American youth of the 80s, something that never had happened to me in the past.
There are, however, also some negative aspects.
First of all, the presence of too much information, no matter how interesting, makes you want to read in a hurry to go to the point, to return to action and find out what will happen to the characters. However, this often leads to inadvertently go too fast in reading the scenes when something important and unexpected happens. And so you find yourself going back and re-read, but now you have missed the moment that would make you enjoy that particular plot twist.
Another sore point concerns the ending which in my opinion is too melancholic. After reading such a long book and after having suffered with the characters I wanted it to finish with an open ending characterised by at least some hope. It would have been nice to close the book with the omen of a smile.

Rita Carla Francesca Monticelli, author of Red Desert - Point of No Return
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on December 12, 2011
"Middlesex," the best novel I have ever read, set accordingly high expectations for "The Marriage Plot," which is good, but not that good. Maybe Eugenides was too busy teaching at university (or something) to give the novel full treatment of his prodigious talent. Academia has leached off some of that Eugenides soul.
The twist at the end was a surprise, but true to life. A good book.
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on March 31, 2012
This is a very enjoyable book with interesting characters and a good story. I found it very well written and have already recommended it. The trick is that you can't compare it to Middlesex as you read since it is nowhere near that level of genius. That said, it is definitely still worth reading and I'm glad Jeffrey Eugenides is still writing.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 14, 2014
The book was well written but I found the two male characters really unlikable - to the point where I did not really want to keep reading. I thought the book was a bit slow, *Virgin Suicides* was much, much better.
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on December 7, 2014
If you're in the mood for a dense, verbose novel then this is a good pick. I enjoyed it - not everyone did. Its slow and more of a plodding intellectual examination of a marriage but I really enjoyed it.
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on February 22, 2012
My loving of this book was probably helped by re-reading Middlesex a year ago.
I was fascinated mainly by the quality of writing: the way different scenes are intertwined, going back and forth, clarifying facts and situations. I read it in a weekend; couldn't put it down.
Don't read this book if you expect a plot: there is none, only life with ups and downs, joy and ugliness, coming up to age, brilliantly painted.
This book, together with Unbroken (Laura Hillebrand) and Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffmann) were the best three I read in 2011.
Loved it!
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