The Marriage Plot Readalong ~ Week 2

Week 2 is finally here. I’ve heard from a couple participants that while it was relatively easy to put the book down after the first section, it’s not as easy after finishing this week’s sections. I hope that everyone is feeling that way at least a little bit. It’s a sign you’re enjoying the book.

If you have finished The Marriage Plot, please be sure not to include any information in your answers that would spoil the remainder of the book for others. This moratorium isn’t forever. Next week Tuesday we can talk about it all.

I got overwhelmed with my own questions during Week 1, so I’m going to try to keep them short and sweet this time around. Once again, please feel to answer as few or as many as you’d like. If you have some of your own, let us know. I’m very interested in what you have to say about what took place.

Caution! If you have not yet reached the end of the section entitled Brilliant Move, which ends on page 293, the rest of this post and any comments will contain spoilers.


I really enjoyed the title of this section. It very much captured the spirit of what was happening directly following graduation. Does the word “pilgrim” have the same meaning for Madeleine and Mitchell? How did Madeleine and Mitchell’s short meeting in New York City and the letter they exchanged impact their journey?

What are your thoughts on Larry and Claire’s relationship? How did they fit in the story? Would his experiences with Mother Theresa’s hospital have been the same had he not gone by himself?

Madeleine’s family again enters the picture. Were you surprised at the way in which Leonard’s condition was discovered? Would Alwyn and Phyllida have left Pilgrim Lake with the same impressions of Leonard had they been able to keep the trugth from them?

Brilliant Move

While there are many questions I could ask you about Leonard and his experiences with his mental illness, what I most want to know is how you reacted to the end of this section? (If you only answer one question, I want this question to be it!)

General Thoughts

At this point, we’re over half way through The Marriage Plot. What are you thoughts about what you’ve read? How does it live up to your expectations?

For those of you reading this book in audio, how has your experience been?

Have you finished it? If not, any thoughts on what the last sections of the book hold?




  • At 2011.11.15 13:40, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

    Larry and Claire was an interesting addition, I think it spoke to the post-college mindset of trying to break out of what you have always known and forge your own way. Plus, I think Larry was a big, fat liar about the reason for their breaking up, and that is always interesting. It also gave Mitchell the impetus to go beyond his comfort zone and break out of the past he had known in a way that he couldn’t have with Larry with him, now he can be whomever he will be, instead of being tied by Larry to the Mitchell he was in college.

    I really wish we’d gotten some response about Leonard from Madeleine’s family before they discovered the pills. Phyllis SEEMED to like him in the lab, but who knows. I doubt that Alwyn was going to like anybody at that point, no matter what. In fact, she WANTED a reason to dislike Leonard and Madeleine’s life, in order to deflect some of the scrutiny she was facing.

    I’m sort of terrified for Leonard and Madeleine right now, with Leonard off his meds and Madeleine unaware and the two of them getting married. Scary stuff, and now I can’t wait to finish reading.

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    • At 2011.11.15 15:54, Jennifer said:

      Pilgrims is such a perfect title for the first section we’re covering this week. For me, Mitchell was more of a pilgrim in the true sense of the world. He’s on a personal and religious quest that takes him far from home. Madeleine’s pilgrimage, to my mind, was more of an escape from her failure to get into graduate school and more than anything else. She was reacting to that rejection letter and reacting to Leonard’s illness. For better or worse, she has a purpose in helping him to get better. I wish that she had attended the conference about Victorian Literature before discovering about Leonard’s hospitalization. I think she may have made some better choices. Even if she ended up making the same choices, it wouldn’t have been because she felt she had no other choice. She did get a sense of what life and love should feel like when she ran into Mitchell. Her letter was her way of talking herself out of those feelings. The answer to that letter became the thing for which Mitchell was searching.

      What I found most interesting about Larry and Claire was where they did their sexual experimentation. Looking back on that whole situation, I have to laugh that college was not the place that they decided to experiment with homosexuality. They had to leave the country in order to feel safe in that choice. I can’t say that their parents had anything to do with that, but I do wonder. That section of the story was essential to the plot, though. Mitchell wouldn’t have gone to Europe and eventually India without Larry. He wouldn’t have had the experiences in India he had to have if Larry had still been with him.

      Alwyn is an typical big sister. She on one hand takes it upon herself to “educate” Madeleine with the Bachelorette’s Survival Kit. On the other, she does not want Madeleine (or anyone else for that matter) to be happy when she is not. That she snooped (and I’m under no illusions that she wasn’t looking for dirt – pregnancy tests, whatever) was not surprising to me in the least. I have a harder time reading Madeleine’s mother. I’m not altogether sure she’s ever warm with anyone.

      My reaction to the end of Brilliant Move? DON’T DO IT! SAY NO! RUN VERY FAR AWAY! As I finished the last line, I started looking around me for someone to agree with me. I love it when that happens. I get so involved with the story that I think that everyone is with me.

      • At 2011.11.16 23:49, Karen White said:

        I laughed at the Pilgrims section title when I read it: Mitchell heading off on his search for wisdom, and Madeleine and Leonard heading off to the Cape in Massachusetts, where the Pilgrims landed!

        Mitchell endeared himself to me further in this section. I actually marked the book when he and Larry were in Dublin: “There were some books that reached through the noise of life to grab you by the collar and speak only of the truest things”. That just made me stop and breathe for a moment. Following THAT the end of the Russian fable really got to me (top of P. 204, I’m not typing that whole thing out!). I found Mitchell’s attempts to please Claire so sweet and inept – and ironic once you realize that Larry probably wasn’t making much of an attempt to please her himself. Though his cooking sounded fantastic.

        Madeleine continued to annoy and frustrate me. I just wanted her to make some choices for herself! And then that got me wondering – do I dislike her because she reminds me of myself and so many other women of my generation? Were we that weak in the face of real life?

        But an interesting relationship she has with her mom and sister, I have to say. Alwyn is quite a bit older, but the mom feels she needs to bring Alwyn to Madeleine to get her problems solved. That one thing did give me a bit more sympathy for Madeleine – that she gets some pressure from her family to play this role of the levelheaded one.

        Funny now that I think of it that Larry abandoned his plans for a man, too.

        It felt helpful to get Leonard’s background filled in a bit, and made me have a bit more sympathy for him, but mostly he freaks me out. I’ve never heard of manic depression cycling in this slow form before and it is frightening in its intensity. And the final moments of Brilliant Move really freaked me out. Bad move, I think. Especially the sex with no protection.

        The next sections have been my favorite so far…

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        • At 2011.11.18 20:23, amanda (tnrunner66) said:

          Hi All – I’m sorry I forgot to post any responses this week. I don’t really have anything to add that you guys haven’t already said. I agree with the points you guys all made. And while I did want M to run screaming from the proposal, I did like Leonard alot more in these sections. I liked the book in general alot more in these sections than I did at first. The first couple of sections didn’t grab me and I felt like the story was alittle full of itself but I really like it now. I don’t want to say much else because I have now finished it so will save the rest of my comments for week 3.

          (Required, will not be published)

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