Monday, September 10, 2012

Eugenides, Jeffrey (The Marriage Plot)

It is always a relief to read "readable" books. I can't stress that enough. If your book doesn't flow, if I'm not engaged with the characters and enjoying following the action (or if your book doesn't have a lot of action but the ideas and thoughts progress nicely), then what's the point? It means you've written a deathly dull tome, and only academics will enjoy it. By this, I do NOT, emphatically, mean that you should not have fabulous descriptive writing, themes that engage, or plots that make holistic sense. In other words, deathly dull does not equal "oh, heavens, this book is thematically rich, ack."

Case in point, this book has a theme. The title states the theme, and the book works on discussing the very old penchant of novels to marry off their characters in certain ways. In some sections of the book, this is refreshingly fun, i.e., the beginning as you're getting used to these new characters. The problem is that this is a difficult theme to conclude. By this I mean that the ending is immensely obvious, for this day and age. I hope I haven't given it away more than I should have, but I was quite disappointed. Does Eugenides actually think this ending is a novel approach?

I am still thinking through the remainder of the book. I can't quite tell if the meanderings about religion, mental illness, travel, city life, etc. have much to do with the theme beyond describing Eugenides' college days. At least it's beautifully written. I (mostly) cared a great deal about the characters because they were so well fleshed out. Perhaps their thoughts and feelings were a few more levels above me in terms of sophistication, but hey, I went to school in the 80s, and it was fun to see that reflected by an author.

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