The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides

Set in the 80s, this is the story of Madeleine, who's an English student writing her dissertation "The Marriage Plot" about the novels of Austen and Eliot and James who is courted by two men: Leonard, who's charismatic but suffers from bipolar, and Mitchell, who's earnest and devoted but perhaps not quite so exciting.

I was a bit worried at the start of this book - which is fairly long - because it felt a little bit gloomy, and there were a couple of infelicitous turns of phrase that I supposed might indicate that the author was trying to appear more clever than he was - in particular, I noted down the description of Madeleine's graduation where he said she thought about "the significance of the day, and what it represented" (this was shortly after mentioning that Madeleine was studying semiotics). And I kept thinking "what's the difference between the significance of something, and what it represents? Aren't they the same thing?

In notable contrast to The Slap which I read recently, the narrative was a bit fiddly to follow: the perspective switched between each of the characters, but within each section would jump forward and backward, so that you saw the same events from the points of view of the different protagonists. This did mean I was skipping back in the audiobook a few times because if you didn't pay attention you could easily lose track of who and when you were.

But it wasn't long before I got more caught up in the story, and found myself rooting for Madeleine and Leonard and Mitchell in equal part - even though Leonard and Mitchell were in competition, I liked them both. The desctipions of Leonard's bipolar were very convincing - both the manic and depressed stages, which each lasted for months at a time.

On the audiobook, the last CD was quite a bit shorter than the others, and there was a final author interview, so that I was surprised when the end came. And by the end of the book, which leaves our characters still fairly young, I was really disappointed to have to say goodbye to them. The author was asked if a sequel was planned, and he said not, although he did make the point that this was just about the only one of his novels that could have a sequel.

Might try another by this author.

Completed : 31-December-2016 (audiobook)

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