The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
Published by: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Published on: October 11, 2011
Page Count: 416
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased from Audible for the Armchair Audies challenge
Audiobook Published by: Macmillan Audio
Narrator: David Pittu
Audiobook Length: 15 hours 35 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
My Audiobook Review
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.
I read The Marriage Plot in print in October of last year. I inhaled it over a weekend and was so taken with it that when the time came to write my review, I went fangirl. When the Audie nominations in Literary Fiction were announced, I was pleased to see that The Marriage Plot was listed. It gave me the excuse to read it again. I was not disappointed. If anything, the audio version enhanced my experience. By its nature, it forced me to slow down and take it in. I also loved what narrator David Pittu brought to the book. His voices were, for the most part, very good. There were a few minor female characters whose voices weren’t terribly distinct, but I could distinguish all major characters by his accents alone. I particularly liked his work with Madeleine’s mother. It was perfect. In addition to his voices, his tone and the places he chose to place emphasis brought this novel to life for me. I’m glad to have experienced this book in both formats. The audiobook version of The Marriage Plot made for a fantastic listen.