Jeffrey Eugenides is one cool cat, as he displayed on Q&A recently. His dry wit and thoughtful demeanour was in stark contrast to the stale, cheesy one liners from fellow novelist, Kathy Lette.
But, I digress... Back to the book at hand.
Recently, I churned through Eugenides' latest offering, a tale of a twisted love triangle (is there any other kind?), set against the backdrop of Brown in the 80s. In The Marriage Plot, privileged Madeleine Hanna is a bright and diligent English major, with an abiding love of romantic English novelists (think Jane Austen).
Her sheltered view of the world is shattered when she enrolls in semiotics, emerging as the new cool thing among nimble-minded collegians at the time. (This part made my head hurt a little!). It is while getting to grips with Derrida and co. that Madeleine meets the intriguing Leonard Bankhead, and she soon falls boundlessly in love with this brilliant, charming and complicated character.
He does sound pretty dreamy...
Meanwhile, as Madeleine is swooning over Bankhead, the dorky Religious studies student, Mitchell Grammaticus, (best. name. ever.) is mooning over her. And when it emerges that Leonard has a devastating mental illness that threatens to dull his genius and erode his relationship, you can't help but think Mitchell would be an easier option.
It is possibly from observing students at Princeton, where he lectures, that Eugenides gained such an insight into the young adult psyche. The male characters are great, but I found Madeleine rather bland; she's made of strong stuff but definitely lacks the pluck of the Jane Austen heroines she admires.
It was a case of "like quite a lot" rather than love for me. Very readable, excellent writing but I was left wanting something different or more when it came to an end.
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