The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex is a tough act to follow, and Jeffrey Eugenides third novel, the Marriage Plot, seems thin and humorless in comparison. It has been in a resell bag in my car and was not going to earn a blog post, but I brought it back into the house and placed it back on the shelf next to Middlesex based more on Middlesex’s merit than it’s own.

There are some things I like about the book. Eugenides doesn’t shy away from raw subject matter and unattractive portrayals of major characters. After all the squirming I did as main character Madeline’s boyfriend Leonard very unattractively unwound due to bipolar disorder, I wanted to be rewarded by reading that Madeline flees to India to join and fall in love with the much more interesting (but perhaps less physically attractive) Mitchell. But Eugenides didn’t give me the fairy tale ending–the Jane Austen marriage plot trope–that I yearned for.

I maybe related too much to Leonard’s decision to disregard his mental health, go off his meds and let his mania take over so that he could lose weight and get his libido back. I love a manic high! Maybe one of the reasons I disliked the book on this second reading was that so many more pages were spent on Leonard’s depressive funk and the toll it took on the barely likable heroine Madeline.

I remember iJane Austen’s marriage plot novels even though I read them ages ago in high school and college. I could not recall a single scene from The Marriage Plot even though I read it within the last several years. There was a vague sense of knowing the story, but for all intents and purposes it did not make an impression on me the first time around whatsoever. The fact that it is a hardbound copy is certainly the only reason I didn’t get rid of it after the first reading.

Having been married a couple of times myself, the subject, the title and the graphic of a gold wedding ring on the dust jacket made me think about my experience with engagements, proposals, rings and marriage. I have some young women friends who want to be engaged and want to be married and they see my two marriages, which began with unmemorable proposals and humble weddings, as sad, cautionary tales. I however am not and haven’t ever been hung up on fairy tale weddings and proposals–partly because I am a practical, very unprincess-y woman, something I like about myself. But I sometimes wonder how much of that is low self-esteem; you know, thinking I’m not, like the L’Oreal shampoo ad says, “worth it.”

II think I’ve had enough of weddings and marriage. I wish I’d done it all better but c’est la vie. For me now, true self-esteem means never having to say, “I do.”

This is more of a journal entry than a book review, sorry. I was so bored by the book I don’t feel like reviewing it further. I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorcee thee. Off again to the resale bag with you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: