The Marriage Plot

  • by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Narrated by David Pittu
  • 15 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel." Anthony Trollope.
It's the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead - charismatic loner and college Darwinist - suddenly turns up in a seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus - who's been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange - resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.
Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they have learned. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can't escape the secret responsible for Leonard's seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.
Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it reads like the intimate journal of our own lives.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Not quite Middlesex but...

I loved both Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, and The Marriage Plot doesn't disappoint- however it isn't quite the intricate saga that Middlesex was.
Madelaine is about to graduate from Uni having studied English Lit and Language, in particular the novels of the 19th century which more often than not centre around the courting, love triangles and eventual marriage of their protagonists. She loses herself in a relationship with the 'wrong' guy who she idolises due to his incredible mind but who also unfortunately suffers from severe depression and mental illness. She in turn rejects the advances of the possibly 'right' guy, Mitchell, who indeed also has his problems and so unfolds a story of a modern love triangle. The book looks human psychology, the naivety and meaning of love, the search for spiritual enlightenment (is there such thing as an unselfish act?) and the stages and effects of mental illness.
I loved this book because it reminded me of my state of mind whilst at university and during my first proper relationship. I also loved the insight into each character, not one of them flawless or indeed even very likable but all three vulnerable and very real. It reminded me very much of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, just really great American Literature which has something to say about society in a very quiet and therefore genuine way.
And because a Audiobook is only as good as it's narrator, I would also have to comment that David Pittu was excellent and made a great book worth listening to.
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- Tara

Hooked but no thanks to the narration

For me it was nice to revisit the 80s in a part of the world I lived in for many years and I suspect that has a lot to do with that hook as I found myself instantly transported to familiar streets and places. It was my first experience of this writer and probably (subject to a different narrator) won't be the last. There is a quality to the writing which is absolutely excellent; the author engages all the senses from the stomach turning experiences of Mitchell volunteering with Mother Theresa to the less than fastidious Leonard's ratty apartment. His exploration of some of the themes, particularly mental illness, and its treatment in that time period was thought provoking. I found the way the backstory elements were woven into the narrative to be quite masterful. The plot though, was a little dull, and I did get to the point about 2/3 of the way through where I really couldn't have cared less what happened to most of the characters, particularly Madeleine.Towards the end I found myself wondering whether the author really liked them himself, although I suspect the narration didn't help here because the female characters sounded whiny, pretentious and irritating. I guess it is all a matter of personal taste.
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- Sallie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-10-2011
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited