Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Suppose I Should Talk About THE MARRIAGE PLOT

Reading the new & buzzworthy, up & coming, anticipated, hyped literary fiction releases is a relatively new experience for me this year.  Actually, because of the Indie Lit Awards, it was a special focus of mine for 2011.  I wanted to be more aware of what the "big" titles were.  I subscribed to Powell's Indiespensable program, the Shelf Awareness newsletters, and I was on my way.

Now, I've never been too thrilled about doing what everyone else is doing.  

- At 12, I ditched my friends because it bothered me that we all did what one girl felt like doing.
- At 17, I got engaged and spent my senior year planning for the rest of my life instead of having fun with friends.
- At 19, I had my first child instead of working towards a college degree.

I may be a good 15 years younger than most parents at my kiddos' schools, I may occasionally find myself with fewer people to relate to than I'd like, but although it's been different, it has also been fun.

This itch to be different relates to The Marriage Plot in a couple ways.  First, I'm having a hard time talking about a book that everybody else is currently talking about (but I'm getting past that, see?)  Second, I had a hard time relating to the characters who were very "college track" --opposite of my alternate route.

The Marriage Plot is about three students in (and out of) their college years: academia circa early 1980s.  It is about Literature, Science, and Religion (very Capital Letter subjects) as well as about mental illness, soul searching, and [a little too much] about sexual thoughts/experiences [for my taste] [which, I'm finding, doesn't take much].

I decided to read it because, having no experience with Eugenides (no, none), it showed up on my doorstep inside my Indiespensable shipment and I was curious what the buzz was about.  I opened it to read the first paragraph and accidentally read the first 20-30 pages instead.

Reading this book was somewhat of an odd experience for me.  I wasn't really "sucked in" to it, I had no problem putting it down and doing something else, the writing didn't strike me as incredible [readable but not quite remarkable], I couldn't relate to the characters or the setting, the story-line wasn't gripping, and yet I was interested.  It was one of those strange times when I was reading the book and concurrently thinking that I wasn't enjoying it so much, and yet something kept me going (and I don't think it was only the fact that I was on a cross-country flight.  I did have other books to choose from!)

It was the ending that made the book for me.  It really brought the whole book together in a way that made it say much more than I thought it was going to.  It made me think, which is something I appreciate.  It made me feel, which is something I'd been missing in the story up until that point.

And so,  reading a currently-very-popular book has turned out to be a pretty good experience after all. I must say that I think the trick is to get it read before reviews are swarming, otherwise I seem to put it aside (like poor State of Wonder and Night Circus--other Indiespensable selections) until a later date.  And as far as Eugenides goes, though I've heard that his books are all very different in style, I'm looking forward to pulling Middlesex off my shelf and experiencing another angle of this intriguing author.

Title: The Marriage Plot
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Pages: 416
Published: Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2011
Read for: Powell's Indiespensable
My Rating: 4 stars


  1. I've been reading more up-to-date fiction, though I have not tackled The Marriage Plot. It is a different experience, and I do find it helpful to put off reading many reviews until I'm done with the books and have reviewed them myself.

    Glad you liked The Marriage Plot. I've had a mixed bag of luck with Eugenides, but I really like academic novels. We'll see how it goes!

  2. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one. Like you, I thought the ending was marvelous. I don't think you will be disappointed with Middlesex.

  3. I had a very similar experience with The Marriage Plot. I felt like I wasn't into it, but I finished it pretty quickly and ended up loving the ending. The more I thought about the book the more I liked it and it's become one of my favorite books released this year.

  4. I have loved both of Euginides other books, so I can't wait to read this one. I prefer The Virgin Suicides over Middlesex though.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one.

  5. This was my experience with eugenides, too. And while I wasn't wowed, I was impressed. Didn't like any of his characters much, but he did a great job evoking mental illness, both what it's like to live with it and to love somebody with it.

  6. The Marriage Plot's plot (wow, confusing) was literally my life at the moment, without the mentally ill husband or the pilgrimage to India... ok, really just the whole confusion of what to do after graduation. So that really helped with my whole loving it- I'm glad you enjoyed it though, overall! Also, Middlesex is literally entirely different to The Marriage Plot, although I love them both. A lot. I hope you enjoy!

  7. After all the raves, I'm enjoying seeing some more moderate reviews (same happened with The Night Circus)!

  8. Isn't that awesome that for some strange reason you liked the book without being able to pinpoint exactly why? It certainly adds to the mystery of why certain books appeal to some people and not to others. I really liked Middlesex, so I'll have to try this and The Virgin Suicides.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your review. I have had Middlesex to be read and it is a friend's favourite book. I must get round to it soon.
    New follower to your blog.


  10. I've read books like this... where they are easy to put down and pick up again, yet there is nothing really special about them. But somehow, they work for me and hold my attention. I've noticed with these types of books that I put them down a lot to ponder what is going on within the novel. I haven't read this one yet. I loved Middlesex and when everyone started to post negative reviews of his new one, I decided to wait a bit.

  11. I'm currently reading The Virgin Suicides for my book club so have been very interested to read your review & the comments. So far I'm liking his style if not the plot.

  12. It's better to love the book at the end than at the beginning! For me, I loved State of Wonder, then 2 paragraphs ruined the book for me at the end.

  13. Andi, I don't think I've read many novels with such an academic component. It was fun, even if I didn't know everything they were talking about! I'm interested to see how his other books differ.

    Brenna, I've loved your enthusiasm for this one...the ending really was more-than-perfect. I've heard many good things about Middlesex, so I have hope for it. :)

    Brooks, I liked it more after some time went by too. It was like the whole was more than the sum of its parts...always a good thing I think.

    Sam, it seems like a lot of people like one over the other, and I've heard that this one is different as well. I'm looking forward to reading what you think about it.

    As the Crowe, good way to put it--maybe not wowed, but impressed all the same. I did find the living-with-mental-illness aspect to be quite interesting.

    Laura, as I was reading it I was thinking that the book would be so much more if you could identify with the circumstances or the setting. Although I suppose that liking the book regardless of the setting is saying something.

    Alex, it's always interesting to see where reviews balance out at. I think that initial reviews tend to be more love it/hate it, perhaps because there is more expectation involved?

    Teacher/Learner, yeah I kind of like that there are some books that I can't figure out exactly why I love them. It shows that talented magical aspect of art.

    Lindsay, thanks for visiting! I've had Middlesex on my shelf for a little while too. Reading The Marriage Plot has me pretty curious to see how they'll compare.

    Ti, that's a good observation (that you may put down a book simply because there is more to ponder.) It does seem that sometimes a book has pretty straightforward language, and yet it isn't necessarily simple--it's just that the complexity lies elsewhere. And sometimes simple takes talent.

    Joan, sounds like a good book club choice--plenty of discussion points, right? His style in The Marriage Plot surprised me. I expected the writing to be more literary/lofty/arrogant for some reason, but I ended up enjoying it.

    Heidi, oh see I've heard that from other people about State of Wonder, which is just too bad. Still, I am looking forward to experiencing her writing; I've heard it's lovely. The ending on this was just altogether better than I could have come up with, so it was a nice surprise.

  14. I have this one waiting on my Nook (I skimmed your review since I haven't read the book yet... just in case there were any details), but it seems that it is apparently worth getting to.

    I seem to always not like books that I'm supposed to and like the ones I'm not. So I am very curious about what I'll think of this since the opinions of it have been such a mixed bag.


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