The Marriage Plot

  • by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Narrated by David Pittu
  • 15 hrs and 35 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It’s the early 1980s—the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, 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 tries to understand why “it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in 18th-century France,” real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes.
Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics 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 amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. 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 19th 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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What the Critics Say

“There are serious pleasures here for people who love to read.” (Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly)
“Wry, engaging and beautifully constructed.” (William Deresiewicz, The New York Times Book Review)
“[The Marriage Plot] is sly, fun entertainment, a confection for English majors and book lovers . . . Mr. Eugenides brings the period into bright detail—the brands of beer, the music, the affectations—and his send-ups of the pretensions of chic undergraduate subcultures are hilarious and charmingly rendered . . . [His] most mature and accomplished book so far” (Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Esoteric, Vapid, Trite

Were my expectations too high after "The Virgin Suicides" and "Middlesex"? Perhaps it's unfair to place such expectations on a brilliant writer.

I didn't connect with the characters and found them to be whiny, self-absorbed and devoid of personality. The narrator was positively horrible when voicing female characters. Please listen to the sample if you do purchase this book.

The pretentious details and plot the vapid characters wade through was exhausting. Stayed with the book until the last word waiting for an epiphany or a satisfying conclusion, alas to no end. Numerous references to Victorian Brit list were ostentacious and my degrees are in this subject matter.

Enter at your own risk.
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- FanB14 "Short, Simple, No Spoilers"

Pride and Prejudice, updated

Having enjoyed listening to audiobooks of Jeffrey Eugenides’ first two novels, "The Virgin Suicide" and "Middlesex," I looked forward to this one.

What exactly is a “marriage plot”? We encounter it frequently in novels and films. Wikipedia defines it as follows: “Marriage plot is a term used, often in academic circles, to categorize a storyline that recurs in novels most prominently and in films most recently. Until the expansion of marriage rights to same-sex couples, this plot centered exclusively on the courtship rituals between a man and a woman and the obstacles that faced the potential couple on its way to the nuptial payoff. The marriage plot became a popular source of entertainment in the 18th and 19th centuries with the rise of the bourgeois novel. The foremost practitioners of the form include some of the more illustrious names in English letters, among them Samuel Richardson, Jane Austen, George Eliot and the Brontë sisters.”

As I listened to the travails of the young, Ivy League, literati in Eugenides version of a modern day marriage plot, I thought no so much of the novels of Jane Austen and Henry James, but of the many times Shakespeare used it in his plays: by my count 23. Eugenedes puts his own spin on the marriage plot and does so in fast paced, clearly written, and enjoyable fashion. If I had one criticism, it is that his third novel does not have the same subtle Kalfkaesque strangeness which the subject matter of his first two novels afforded (suicide in "The Virgin Suicides," and genetic variation in "Middlesex"). It seemed Eugenedes attempted to use the topics of religion (Mitchell ) and mental illness (Leonard) to achieve the same effect, but fell a little short. This might have been from Eugenides' pre-conceived plan to pay homage to earlier novelists rather than create something new and non-derivative. Still, I enjoyed this novel enough to give it the highest marks.

With regard to the narrator’s performance, I don’t think he could have done a better job. His casting was perfect, and you could always tell which character was speaking.
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- Lawrence

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-11-2011
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio