The Marriage Plot (Eugenides)

After the epic briliance of Middlesex, I expected great things from Eugenides this time around. In that regard, The Marriage Plot is disappointing. It reads like a first novel. In other words, it reads, plot-wise, like thinly-veiled autobiography. As three students graduate from Brown, a love triangle emerges. There’s travel across Europe. There are a lot of witty potshots at academia and religion. The book reads smoothly, but it seems too easy for Eugenides. I expected more ambition, or at least more originality. As I said, I think he’s a great writer. Some examples –

After four years at college, nobody was anybody she knew.

Each neighbor was going his or her own to keep up standards, which was difficult because the French ideal wasn’t clearly delineated like the neatness and greenness of American lawns, but more of a picturesque disrepair. It took courage to let things fall apart so beautifully.

Finally, he climbed the hall and entered the church’s massive doors. The vault seemed to draw him upward like liquid in a syringe.

Great writing, but right on the border between clever and contrived. And 400+ pages of it was, at times, irritating. The story seems to be the product of a smart aleck. A talented smart aleck, but that somehow makes it worse.


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