16 November 2011

Book Review and Audiobook Giveaway: The Marriage Plot

 I recently finished Jeffrey Eugenides'  The Marriage Plot.  Before I jump into how I felt about the book, I will share a brief summary (with spoilers).

In Romantic literature, a marriage plot was a literary device around which novels were often based that dealt with courtship between men and women (think Elizabeth and Darcy, Heathcliff and Catherine, etc.).  This book revolves around three recent college graduates in the early 1980's, their complicated love triangle, and their quests to find fulfillment.  Mitchell (a deeply spiritual philosophy student) loves Madeleine (a naive English major).  Madeleine loves Leonard (a brilliant biologist who suffers from crippling Type I bipolar disorder).  Madeleine knows Mitchell is the more suitable suitor, but is attracted to Leonard's genius and charisma.  After graduation, Leonard and Madeleine move in together and soon marry despite his worsening disease.  Her Austen heroines always got married at the end of the book, so she feels compelled to do the same.  Mitchell goes on a soul-searching quest around the world but eventually he finds himself back in their lives when Leonard, realizing how wrong he is for her, divorces Madeleine.  Mitchell helps her heal and she seems to reciprocate his love.  As in one of the aforementioned Romantic novels, it appears that these two star-crossed lovers will end up together.  At this point, though, the author derails this particular marriage plot.  Mitchell makes the decision to let her go instead of being her fall-back option.

 Eugenides wrote a beautiful novel - there is no doubt about that.  My husband absolutely loved this book, and every other review I've read has been glowing as well.  For me, however, this was a difficult read.  The pace was slow, which I didn't particularly mind.  I don't think that's ever a reason to dislike a book, and I cringe when I see people cite that as a stumbling point.  What tripped me up with this book was the portrayal of mental illness.  As a person who suffers from Bipolar Disorder (although not the same type or severity as the character in this book) it is often difficult for me to read fictional accounts of a mental illness.  The book just left me uneasy, and a little disconcerted.  However, those feelings are completely mine and stem mostly from what personal experiences and baggage I bring to the story.  As I mentioned earlier, other people I know who have read it have none of those feelings about it.  I think it was definitely worth the trip to the library to check it out!

Please note: MacMillan is offering one an unabridged audiobook of The Marriage Plot for a From Left to Write reader! Listen to a sample here: Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides audiobook excerpt   To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on the From Left to Write Blog (where this original post is)with your favorite Jane Austen novel or another similar Romantic novel. For extra entries:
Giveaway ends November 27.
Winner will have 48 hours to respond. The giveaway prize is courtesy of MacMillan Audiobooks. From Left to Write is not responsible for any lost or misdirected prizes. No compensation was received for this post.

This post was originally published on the From Left to Write blog.

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