Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, The Marriage Plot, is not a book I intended to read. The story of a college grad torn between two lovers seemed too likely to be matrimaniacal. But then a friend passed along her copy, and well, it did win the Pulitzer Prize, so I figured I’d at least start it. (Spoiler alert: I’m going to reveal the ending.)
Madeleine is an English major who is smitten by the great British novels, even though it is deconstructionism that is all the rage at Brown University in the 80s, when the story takes place. The two men vying for her affections are Mitchell, a spiritual type, and Leonard, a brilliant and quirky biologist who turns out to be a “manic-depressive” (as he is called in the novel).
The book is a coming-of-age story about the three recent grads, with a focus on the romantic triangle. The tremendously talented Madeleine attends mostly to the needs of Leonard, putting her own aspirations on hold. She marries very young (early 20s) and wonders whether she should have chosen Mitchell instead. All that is the ho-hum part.