the marriage plot

First let me say that I did not care for Middlesex at all. And yes, I’m aware that that novel won Mr. Eugenides the Pulitzer Prize and most of America adores it…. but I still didn’t care for it. It wasn’t for me. What can I say? I’m totally weird.

So, I was hesitant to buy his newest book, The Marriage Plot, which is Eugenides’ first novel since writing Middlesex almost ten years ago. I’ll admit I definitely wasn’t even going to give it a chance. I was on too much of a roll with Diane Chamberlain. Why break the streak? Buuuuuut….I had this Amazon gift card that was burning a hole in my virtual wallet. So I took a chance! I did.

And I’m totally not finished with it yet (I’m 70% through), but I love it! I really do. The book is about the lives of three post-college students in the early 80’s and about them trying to find their way in the world after graduating from an Ivy League school. The title “The Marriage Plot” is a reference to the theory that all great works of Victorian literature were centered around the theme of marriage and now, with the rise of divorce, feminism and sexual freedom the novel is dead.  Reading this book took me right back to my literary criticism class junior year (fondly referred to as “lit crit”) and made me remember why I love reading so much to begin with.

Moral of the story? Even if you hated Middlesex, read this book. Or, if you absolutely loved Middlesex you’ll probably love this, too. You can’t go wrong!

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  • Sarah @ See Sarah Eat
    November 17, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    I will add this to my list. I never read Middlesex but I liked The Virgin Suicides by this author, as depressing as it was.

  • Amanda
    November 17, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Really couldn’t get into Middlesex either. Thanks for the recommendation – I too have an Amazon giftcard that I’m dying to use

  • Jen
    November 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    How do you decide what to read next – look for the latest in fiction or from recommendations? It seems that you like to stick with a specific genre so I guess that makes it easier!

  • Debbi
    November 17, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks for the review. Coming from someone who didn’t care for Middlesex (I loved it!) makes it even more of an incentive for me to get it.

  • Em
    November 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I loved Middlesex, and The Marriage Plot is resting beside my bed, just WAITING for me to read it. Now I’m really excited to dive in!

    Just read this review this morning – from another bloggy I love: What Would a Nerd Wear…

    Thanks for your mini-book review.

  • Lauren
    November 17, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I’m about 70% through it too, and I’m pretty meh about it. I’ve had it for a few weeks and haven’t rushed to finish it at all. Though I adored The Virgin Suicides and LOVED middlesex.

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    November 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I’ve heard this book get really good reviews…thanks for chiming in with your thoughts on it!

  • Victoria
    November 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Alright, I’ll try it precisely because I felt meh about middlesex. Read the whole dang thing too. But I keep seeing this book EVERYWHERE. We’re reading The Night Circus now and if you’re in the mood for fantasy and magic.

  • Jamie @ A Healthy J.D.
    November 17, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Thank you! I was not a fan of Middlesex ( I didn’t even finish the book!) and was judged for this for years (I worked at Barnes and Noble and anytime I stated I wasn’t a fan people scoffed, customers and co-workers alike). I’ve been hesitant to try The Marriage Plot and no glowing review has convinced me it was worth it until I read this. You have made me want to give it a go, so thanks again!

  • Cara
    November 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I was hesitant as well bc i also did not like Middlesex. I will add it to my list. Thank you!

  • Fran@ Broken Cookies Don't Count
    November 17, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    From my recent experience, I don’t really like books that win the Pulitzer Prize. I read Middlesex a few years ago and I thought it was extremely clever and interesting, I wouldn’t actually say I loved it. As you describe The Marriage Plot, it sounds very interesting. I think I’ll give it a try.

  • amy walters, aDESIGNdock
    November 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    Ooh…thanks for the suggestion Jenna. I’m intrigued!

  • lena
    November 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    I’ll have to check this out. I loved Middlesex even though it took me several tries to get into it. I’ve found I had that problem with some of my favorite books.

  • Cait's Plate
    November 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Ah! I LOVED Middlesex!! I definitely want to read this though – I kind of forgot about Jeffery Eugenides after Middlesex so thanks for the reminder 🙂

  • Allison
    November 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Honesty, I loved Middlesex but I finished this last night and I kind of hated it. I enjoyed the beginning and the last third but really, I pretty much skimmed the rest of it.

  • Sarah
    November 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Hi, Jenna,

    I love your website. I’ve been reading it for about 2 years. I am 3/4 the way through the Marriage Plot , and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it too. Unfortunately, Madeleine’s post English major floating around resonates a little too close to home, though now I’ve finally landed a job as a teacher in Boulder! Finally! I LOVED Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, though this was the easiest of his books to handle for me. I also just finished a few Diane Chamberlain’s after your review here. What I LOVE about The Marriage Plot is that I was an Victorian lit major, so it’s right up my alley. Speaking of which, have you read Bleak House? It’s my favorite of the lot.

    I love your blog! And your book reviews!


  • Joelle (on a pink typewriter)
    November 17, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    From one english major ot another, you just brought back some Literay Theory memories!

    • Joelle (on a pink typewriter)
      November 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      .. and ironic that I misspelled ‘to’ after citing that I was an English major haha.

  • Julia at Cafe Lula
    November 17, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I have been waiting for this book to be released and then I managed to forget all about it! Really enjoyed Virgin Suicides and Middlesex and I also have an Amazon voucher to use so I think I’ll join the spend-your-amazon-voucher-on-The-Marriage-Plot club 🙂

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen
    November 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Good to know. I hated Middlesex too. I really wanted to like it but found it weird and just ‘unfinished’ at the end. I was shocked that it won so many awards and people said how much they loved it b/c I just didn’t feel that way at all. Guess I won’t dismiss this one just based on that.

  • Dani
    November 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I didn’t care for Middlesex either. It didn’t help that I thought it was going to be a book about Middlesex, the town in Massachusetts… Turns out, that wasn’t the case. The Marriage Plot sounds great and right up my alley. I might have to pick this one up once the semester is over and I finally get to read FUN books!

    • Laura
      November 22, 2011 at 4:16 am

      Did you not read the blurb before starting it? It explains what its about…

  • Sharon
    November 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Loved Middlesex, and I want to read The Marriage Plot too. Thanks for reminding me! Quick question-how would i do a vegetarian portion of your Homestyle Turkey Chili? can I just brown the turkey separately from all the other ingredients, reserve a small pot of the original recipe sans turkey, then add back in the turkey to the main pot? It shouldn’t alter the flavor significantly, right? I have one vegetarian I am serving…Thanks!

  • Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields
    November 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    We read Middlesex for our book club in October. I was so-so with it. If it wasn’t for book club I probably would have put it down!
    I’m looking forward to The Marriage Plot now after having read this post!

  • Lisa
    November 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Hated Middlesex. Weird. I don’t trust another one of his books.

  • Mary
    November 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Ah, I can’t believe you didn’t like Middlesex! It is one of my favorite books. Though since you liked this book, have you tried Virgin Suicides? It’s another JE book that I loved.

  • Notyet100
    November 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Will look for this book,..

  • Erin
    November 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    I was so excited to see this post today. My book club is reading this right now! I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it but I love it!

  • Faith @ For the Health of It
    November 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    I actually loved Middlesex – I’ll have to check that one out too!

  • Coco
    November 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I’m glad you posted this! I keep debating buying this book for my nook, and now I think you’ve helped me make my decision. Thanks!

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  • Madeline
    November 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    I’m in the middle of this right now too! And completely agree with everything you say about it. Middlesex…blah.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape
    November 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Sounds like a great book!!

  • Luv What You Do
    November 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    So many books…so little time!
    A coworker was just telling me about this book. I’m on her list to brorrow it soon!

  • Ellie
    November 17, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    What didn’t you like about Middlesex, Jenna? (Anyone else who didn’t, feel free to respond as well!) I haven’t read The Marriage Plot yet but have been meaning to in the near future – you’ve inspired me to bump it to the top of my list!

  • Liz
    November 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I’ve been wanting to read that one, too, but was waiting to hear from someone who’d read it – going on the Nook wish list. Way too many books with not near enough ‘free’ time!

  • Nicole Gamble
    November 18, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Awesome, guess I’ll have to read this. Looks awesome. Thanks for convincing me.

  • Halle
    November 18, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I’ve been on the fence about reading this book, so thank you for the great review!

  • Hannahviolin
    November 18, 2011 at 7:16 am

    I loved Middlesex, and enjoyed The Marriage Plot–I didn’t care for the ending but enjoyed the ride 🙂

  • Erica @ In and Around Town
    November 18, 2011 at 7:35 am

    I stopped reading Middlesex about half way through and was really debating on picking this book up, so I really appreciate your great review!

  • Andrea @ The Skinny Chronicles
    November 18, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I’m first in line for the Marriage Plot on the library waiting list. The suspense is killing me! I’m glad you are liking it…I did love Middlesex though, although I think I was fascinated because of the whole Greek family thing (I am Greek, so it had some appeal…).

  • Lauren (
    November 18, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I had trouble getting into Middlesex, too, but I loved The Virgin Suicides. This latest book wasn’t on my radar, but I’ll have to check it out now. Jeffrey Eugenides is a beautiful writer.

  • Laura
    November 18, 2011 at 10:09 am

    i have no self control when it comes to these posts. i immediately went out and bought this book and how to marry an american man. your taste matches mine identically so i’m in trouble when you post back to back!

  • Vanessa @ Project Zen
    November 18, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I tend to have similar discussions all of the time with my friends about the plot that’s in the book. I don’t know how insightful the book will be but I added it to my to-read list!

  • Gena
    November 18, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Marriage Plot is an FSG book, so I am very, very partial (and I happened to love it aside from that).

  • Gillian G. @ When Bread Is Broken
    November 19, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Gah, I love analyzing Victorian lit. Made lit crit so much more fun. I might just have to check this one out. It’s been a whole 6 months since I’ve flexed my analytic muscle!

  • KaraHadley
    November 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I both loved Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, so you really don’t have to twist my arm to read a Eugenides book. But I’m glad that he has redeemed himself for you. And I’m so going to buy this…once I actually have time to read anything non-assigned.

  • Liz
    November 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for this review… seriously. I am the director of a public library, and just selectd this book to order. I had NOT read Middlesex, but of course I was aware of the critical acclaim it received. This new book, though, had conflicting reviews… a lot of people said they LOVED Middlesex, but did not like this new book. So it is good to see someone say the opposite! The storyline seems like something I’d enjoy, so I thought that surely some people would enjoy it.

  • Liz
    November 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm


  • zoe (and the beatles)
    November 21, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    hah i loved middle sex! minus the ending. hated the ending. ugh. regardless, i really want to read his new book! glad you’re enjoying it so far. he’s got such a poetic style of writing. i kind of love it 🙂

  • Bayley
    December 30, 2011 at 4:44 am

    I really, really disliked this book. It seemed forced, full of caricatures, and jumped around in an unsettling, unedited kind of way. Also, the sex scenes were painfully bad! I loved his first two books, especially The Virgin Suicides, and I really tried to like The Marriage Plot, but I just could not take it seriously.

  • Hannah
    February 20, 2012 at 12:15 am

    He is a truly amazing author but I had trouble getting through the book. I understood the characters and their struggles. Yet it left me feeling slightly incomplete. But maybe that was the intention that, after all, the marriage plot is dead. It wasn’t for me but I’m glad I read it.