The Marriage Plot involves what may strike some readers as a rather ordinary love triangle between three freshly minted Brown University graduates striving to find their footing in the world...But rest assured: There's a sly meta-fictional level to this apparently conventional coming-of-age novel about the romantic and occupational dilemmas of three recent Ivy League graduates … The Marriage Plot benefits from totally convincing descriptions of living with manic-depression, as well as a fluency with — and gently derisive attitude toward — the abstruse Derrida and Barthes texts that Madeleine and Leonard wade through in the semiotics seminar in which they meet.
This is a story about romance and novels — and the bright young people who read them. Or misread them … Eugenides’s love affair with fiction embraces all those contradictions: the novel’s potential to confuse and enlighten, to teach what love is really like even while confusing us with impossible ideals … The novel’s first section, a 127-page masterpiece that takes place on graduation day, twists and soars through one witty, erudite, perfectly choreographed sentence after another...These later sections are not as compelling, although the portrayal of life with a manic-depressive is distressing enough to shred anyone’s 19th-century illusions of romance. Eugenides is frighteningly perceptive about the challenges of mental illness.
It would be easy to recommend The Marriage Plot as a pleasurable but shallow book—a well-produced, HD nostalgia trip … By giving us a graspable DFW character, Eugenides saves his book and trumpets the merits of his realistic style. Of course there's no real answer to why DFW committed suicide … Count me as someone who was taken in by The Marriage Plot. I enjoyed spending time with these familiar people, with their familiar cultural references, and discovering some dark unfamiliarity, too. In the best possible way, it's like reading a long, detailed, acutely observed Alumni Notes in the back of some Ivy college monthly.