PerpetualIntern’s #CBR4 Review #3: The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides
Oh how I loved this book. Perhaps it was because my last novel was such a failure, but reading Jeffery Eugenides’ writing is simply wonderful. If you haven’t read his best known work, Middlesex, I highly recommend it. I came to The Marriage Plot after my best friend read it and recommended it. Since I loved Middlesex so much I was ready for a deep character analysis, some science (there always seems to be some in his books) and an intricately woven story. I was not disappointed.
The Marriage Plot follows three characters, Mitchell, Madeleine and Leonard, through their last days of college and their emergence into the real world after graduation. Mitchell was a religious studies major, Leonard a biology major, and Madeleine an English major who specialized in the Jane Austen era of novels, when happy endings and a marriage signified the end of the plot. It is a love triangle that is complicated by the friendship of Mitchell and Madeleine and the manic depression of Leonard. The story is told in turn by all three characters, recounting the same events from different perspectives. Eugenides deftly moves from voice to voice and does an especially fantastic job of inhabiting Leonard. Describing what it feels like to struggle with manic depression, the extremes of the disease and what is does to a person’s body, is not an easy task but the reader is fully transported into Leonard’s battle. This allows for a character who would otherwise be vilified for his actions to become sympathetic.
Beyond the characters, Eugenides delves deeply into their passions. Mitchell’s passages are interwoven with religious exploration and knowledge and Madeleine’s are constantly alluding to Victorian novels. Leonard’s chapters are scientific as he tries to understand his disease from a clinical perspective. In doing this, Eugenides creates virtual subplots that are fascinating. Religious studies and Victorian novels are two of my favorite subjects, so perhaps these subplots are one reason I loved the book so much. For those not interested in any of the majors of Mitchell, Madeleine and Leonard, however, I could see this novel being somewhat inaccessible. For instance, in the beginning of the book Madeleine and Leonard are in a class on Derrida and the philosophy of deconstruction. I had no interest and no background in this subject, and had this subplot continued, Eugenides probably would have lost a lot of my attention. Luckily for me, he turned his attentions to romantic novels and religion, so I was a happy reader.
narfna’s #CBR4 Review #58: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
THE CASUAL VACANCY, A READING JOURNAL
BEFORE, 9/20/12: Confession time, you guys: I haven’t been that excited for the new Rowling, although you’d think I would be, the way I’ve behaved over her previous novels (hint: like a fuckin’ lunatic, yo). Since I first discovered Harry Potter in October of 1999, I have yet to find any story that touches me the way(s) HP does, for whatever reason. Not that my love of HP has instilled in me ridiculously high expectations or anything, EXCEPT THAT IT TOTALLY HAS.
I would tell you that I’ve re-read those books more times than I can count, except that would be a lie because I HAVE counted, and I’m just not telling you because, frankly, it’s obscene. But no matter how many times I re-read them, they still make my heart beat fast, make me laugh, make me cry, and make me scream obscenities and want to throw things across the room (Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, and specifically Dolores Umbridge, is responsible for the first recorded incidence of Ashley-on-book-violence). They make me feel FEELINGS, and in only the best ways. And every time I pick them up again, they never fail to make feel like I’m discovering magic for the first time all over again — you know, like Madonna in “Like a Virgin,” except with books instead of sex.
The last time a favorite author of mine came out with a new book, I was crushingly disappointed by it. Alice Sebold followed up her ethereal and haunting The Lovely Bones with the absolutely god-awful The Almost Moon. I hated that book as much as I loved her first one, and I loved her first one a lot. So maybe it’s my brain’s way of protecting me against disappointment, this not caring. I pre-ordered The Casual Vacancy like a good fan, like a good little bibliophile, but deep down where it counts, I felt nothing, and it feels awful. I feel dead inside, like someone who is allergic to ice cream or cookies or something equally as awesome.
BEFORE REDUX, 9/24/12: It’s three days before the release date, and I have been trolling the internet for every last scrap of information I can find about this book. This has led me to two conclusions: 1) I still fucking love Jo Rowling — I want to be her BFF, and I’m so happy she’s still putting her words out into the universe; and 2) I have let my fear that I am going to hate this book consume me. I’m absolutely petrified. I have to stop thinking about this now. Read more…