The Marriage Plot. Jeffrey Eugenides.

Eugenides, Jeffrey. The Marriage Plot. Knopf Canada 2011. F:12/11.

Like some wines, it’s a bit hard for me to be certain I’m not impressed with the reviews, and also that my taste isn’t just for things that are flashy and accessible. But anyway I fell for this one.

I remember Middlesex, and vaguely remember enjoying it, but can’t recall the plot. Here, (PLOT ALERT) an unequal romantic triangle involves a very pretty (English major from a rich New England family) college girl and two guys, the one she marries and then separates from who is a six foot three sex machine and smart biology student dabbling in philosophy (but also bipolar), and the other an intellectual religious geeky guy who eventually ends up with her by default but lets her go her way at the very end (END PLOT ALERT).

Along the way complicated literary, philosophical, sexual, psychiatric, religious, and societal issues are faced head-on with barely a hint of a loss of narrative balance. The characters’ credibility and how the author feels about them sets up the trimaran that cuts across a realistic university, the pros and cons of mystical religious belief, sexual style and pleasure, and the slant taken by several major philosophers on all of the above. It’s like I’ve been to all the venues (even the ones I haven’t) and watched it all happen.

Mitchell’s religious experience feels like I’m having it myself, and sex with Leonard comes close to making a straight man want to be a girl. Leonard’s highs and lows are medically/psychiatrically bang on, told of from a loved-one’s point of view. There are nice cameo characters including an asshole car salesman trying to get laid in India, and Madeleine’s sister and dad who never deviate from ideal small-part character, except when we get a couple of hints of depth through main characters’ eyes.

It’s also about the Victorian novel where marriage is the central theme, and how different things are now, but then really not so much.

And fun! I couldn’t wait to get back to it after putting it down and read it over just a couple of days. Am I just dazzled? I read thrillers just as quickly but wouldn’t be making this kind of a fuss. 9.3

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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