Join Jeffrey Eugenides to talk about our April Book of the Month, THE MARRIAGE PLOT, on Thurs 3 May, 9-10pm

(132 Posts)

'To start with, look at all the books'. So begins the very first sentence in our April Book of the Month, THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides. And books are everywhere in this novel: Victorian love stories, literary theories, philosophical tracts, holy scripture and all sorts of writing in between.

It is 1982, and three undergraduates are about to leave Brown University. Madeleine, an idealistic and romantic English Literature addict, is infatuated with Leonard, her mercurial and scientific boyfriend. Meanwhile, theology student Mitchell is convinced that he and Madeleine are destined to be together. Full of idealism and ideas, all three embark on a journey of discovery that reveals adult life is definitely no fairy tale - nor a classic Jane Austen novel.

THE MARRIAGE PLOT crammed with energy and intelligence; it makes you think big and bold. But more than that, it is funny, warm, tender and understanding. Eugenides' writing is seemingly effortless; it amuses and beguiles and thoroughly entertains. And it is full of those small, telling details that are perfect in their perception of human emotion, and in understanding the fallibility of human nature. A true modern classic.

You can find out more at our book of the month page, and read an interview with Eugenides here.

4th Estate have 50 copies of the book to give away to Mumsnetters. To claim yours, please go to the book of the month page and fill in your details.

We'll post on the thread when all the copies have been sent out but if you're not lucky enough to bag one of those, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.

We're delighted that Jeffrey Eugenides will be joining us to talk about THE MARRIAGE PLOT, and his other novels, on Thursday 3 May, 9-10pm.

Whether you've read this book, previous books, or just want to ask him how he started writing, come along and join in.

Meanwhile, do keep posting your thoughts and any advance questions on this thread.

Looking forward to it...

MayCanary Wed 18-Apr-12 12:13:49

Started it last night and think I am going to fall in the "like - love" camp. Already much better than last month's effort (imh0).

vezzie Fri 20-Apr-12 11:24:46

Is this the thread to put the questions for Mr Eugenides?

NoraHelmer Fri 20-Apr-12 18:55:13

It is, vezzie. You just post your question here and it gets passed to him prior to 3rd May.

kandinskysgirl Sat 21-Apr-12 10:01:59

I have just finished this.

<Spoiler alert>

I loved the ending..I thought the fact that the girl didn't have to end up with a boy after the ending of her marriage was quite a positive statement to women. I thought it sent a strong message that women are capable of being ok without having to be in a relationship.

I did like to think that after a while Madeleine and Mitchell would end up together but in a healthy way rather than rushing into it.

So my question is do you carry on the characters stories in your head or do they end for you when the book ends?

Abcinthia Sat 21-Apr-12 14:53:11

I just finished and I really enjoyed it.

In the book you mentioned many different authors and their work, so I was wondering which author(s) and/or novels inspired you the most to become an author yourself?

MayCanary Mon 23-Apr-12 14:29:14

Really enjoyed the book although it looked daunting at first glance. Thanks to your publishers for my copy.

You write very fondly (it seems) about P-town. Do you have connections with the area?

Thanks to everyone for your questions so far, just a reminder that I'll be sending advance q's to Mr Eugenides early next week, so do put them up here pronto.

I have far too many questions and am desperately trying to whittle down..

NoraHelmer Thu 26-Apr-12 09:41:48

I'm only half way through (long book grin) but I'm enjoying it. Not sure if I'm going to be finished in time to put a question to Mr Eugenides sad

juneau Thu 26-Apr-12 09:57:46

I'm really looking forward to reading this book - just ordered my copy. I thought Middlesex was great, so will watch this thread with interest.

yUMMYmUMMYb Thu 26-Apr-12 13:14:03

I really enjoyed this book enormously, and i would never have chosen to read it. Thanks for the free copy, i will be heartily recommending to friends. My question is about the theme of mental health - how did you research this topic? Your writing makes scenes appear so vivid, i loved your style. I lived with a manic depressive flat-mate for 3 years and your descriptions were uncannily accurate and remindedme so much of that time in my life.

Definitely the best bookof 2012 for me.

SoTiredoftheWheelsontheBus Thu 26-Apr-12 14:32:35

Have just bought The Marriage Plot, but haven't started reading it yet. Just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex. I've read them both several times, so I was really pleased to hear that the author had a new book out.

RedBushedT Sun 29-Apr-12 21:40:58

Oh I'll have to get a copy!

NoraHelmer Mon 30-Apr-12 08:13:40

I finished reading it last night. I loved it - one of the best books I've read in a very long time smile. I would never have thought that manic depression could be such a fascinating subject. I really felt for Leonard and his suffering. I had an aunt who was a manic depressive. She was a highly intelligent woman who lived a long and deeply unhappy life, attempting suicide several times, before finally dying of old age.

I'm sorry I have no question for Mr Eugenides but wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading the book.

MaryA74 Mon 30-Apr-12 14:11:15

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

Bellstar Tue 01-May-12 13:34:15

Only bought the book today so have to get a move on if I want to join in on thursday!!

My question to the author is-

I looooooooooooved The virgin suicides-I read an excerpt in Cosmoblush when I was a young teen and ran straight out to buy it!!

But...I was disapointed in the film version? how did you feel about it? oh and if I am allowed to be cheeky and ask another question-why so long between books?<sobs>

NancyMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 02-May-12 11:02:55

Hi Jeffrey,

I've been a big fan of yours, ever since I got a copy of the Virgin Suicides when I was a teenager, and then when I picked Middlesex up a few years later, I couldn't put it down.

The Marriage Plot was TERRIFIC - oh my god!! I was gushing about it to everyone from about the first chapter on, and I couldn't put it down. I even found myself deliberately slowing myself from finishing it took quickly. I'm actually looking forward to re-reading it again. I don't think I ever related so much to each character individually before. What a joy it was to read. Thank you.

My question is that I've noticed that between all three of your books - Virgin Suicides, Middlesex, Marriage Plot - there's a theme of emerging teenage sexuality, confusion and subverted desire, particularly within young women (though this was obviously across more of a spectrum in Middlesex.)

Was this always an interest of yours - have you studied it? Obviously the Greek myth of Oedipus, with the themes of sex, desire, incest, forbidden and blindness appears in Middlesex, between Calliope and the Obscure Object in particular, but have you had any other education in the field? What draws you to writing about this?

ProfCoxWouldGetIt Wed 02-May-12 12:03:26

Almost finished - about 20 pages to go, but I'm loving the book I'm finding really hard to put it down it's just a pity DD, and work get in the way of reading it. smile

IamtheSnorkMaiden Wed 02-May-12 13:45:38

Poo, I always miss these things.

Lurve Jeffrey very much!!! I will be suggesting The Marriage Plot to my reading group smile
yUMMY - I think it's You-gene-uh-dees. Or You-gen-uh-dees.

Teaddict Wed 02-May-12 14:05:37

Hi Jeffrey
I am a brand new fan as I have to admit I hadn't heard of you before! (Well that's what happens when you inherit your reading material from a sister)
I am really enjoying The Marriage Plot and will definitely get your other two books to read next.

Two quick and easy questions as I'm struggling with the americanisms... What are "wingtips" as in "he wore wingtips without socks" also what are "de Kooning" teeth?

Thanks

minimuffin Wed 02-May-12 14:46:31

I haven't read The Marriage Plot or the Virgin Suicides, though I bought them both immediately after reading Middlesex earlier this year. The best-written novel I have read for a long, long time and one that I looked forward to wallowing in at the end of every day whilst I was reading it. As a family saga I loved it. Middlesex has particular resonance for me though as my eldest son was born with the same condition as Cal, although thanks to immediate diagnosis and a very skilled surgeon he will thankfully not face the same issues as Cal. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to read the book as I knew it would hit all kinds of nerves, and I did find parts upsetting and difficult to read, obviously, but I wanted to try to get as many perspectives as possible on the condition so that I can try to support my son as best I can as he grows up and begins to understand what happened to him. The book made me realise that in days gone by he would probably have been labelled as and lived as a hermaphrodite. I hadn't quite realised that and it sent me into a tailspin for a long time after reading it.... but it was beautifully and sympathetically written. I loved how it normalised everything - by the end of the novel you barely even remembered that the grandparents were brother and sister, their situation was so normal, so everyday, they were so much a product of their generation and surroundings that the most extraordinary thing about them was almost forgotten. The same was true of Cal to a degree - she (then he) was just a normal teen dealing with normal teen stuff until reality intervened but you felt you knew and liked him so much by the time of realisation that all that mattered was how he dealt with it. Whether he'd chosen to continue living as a woman or to do what he did and embrace being male, it didn't really matter. All that mattered was that he was OK. I loved the book. What I wanted to know as I read it though was, how on earth did you decide to write about this subject? I can't believe I now have the chance to ask you!

Also, is the reason you have had long intervals between novels due in part to the amount of research you do? You had obviously done extensive research into the subject of Middlesex. I haven't read your other novels so I don't know if they are as rooted in specific subjects, but if so, how do you pick your subject matter? Does inspiration strike unexpectedly from something you read or an anecdote you hear? Or do you set out in search of a subject when you are ready to work on a new novel?

carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 02-May-12 18:27:49

I can't believe I'm missing this discussion. I loved Middlesex and think I loved this one even more. I even sat down to read when the kids were still up to finish it...I can't tell you how rare that is...probably never happened before, the children were a bit stunned smile. I also couldn't wait to give it to my best friend but now I've passed it on feel a little bereft. I'm slightly embarrassed as an English grad that I (apparently) missed lots of literary references/parallels - I was too wound up in the characters/plot (never really did that well in literary theory when I studied English either, so it was interesting to revisit that in the book). Did you sit down to write a novel full of literary references/parallels or did you have the story in your head and the refs came naturally as you went along? Or are all those folks spotting literary refs wrong and it's just a jolly good read after allsmile
Again sorry to miss you and thanks for coming on MN. Really looking forward to your next book so do crack on won't you grin

vezzie Wed 02-May-12 22:11:56

Hi Jeffrey,
Thank you for coming to Mumsnet.
If The Marriage Plot presents an implicit dichotomy between theory and common sense, why did you decide to associate the common sense side so strongly with the female point of view? I found this disturbing as the theory is so simplistically dismissed and the "female" point of view so silly in places. (Have you read - I am sure you have - Mating by Norman Rush? A work of genius by a man writing in 1st person as a woman which is subtle and profound without being intellectual or tricksy, or any of the things you seem to accuse "intellectuals" of being in this book)
In fact it struck me as generally a problematically conservative book, not in a good way; did you mean to write such a conservative book? Is it deliberately conservative, or is it supposed to be somehow drawing out the problems with, for instance, sympathising with a rich white girl as opposed to a mentally ill boy from a difficult background?
What about when the girl gets raped, and apparently enjoys it (I think)? How do you feel about the problems in putting across such a conservative point of view about female sexuality, when you are not a woman? Do you feel a particular responsibility in this respect, writing so much indirect first person as a woman and projecting such apparently unexamined cliche about "female reality"? I would have expected so, after the more explorative writing about gender in Middlesex, but I was disappointed by how little evidence of this there was. How do you feel about the responsibility implicit in writing "as" a member of an underrepresented group, in a genre (the novel) which historically has been one of the few in which the occasional woman has been allowed to express the originality, fullness and complexity of female existence?

vezzie Thu 03-May-12 09:29:50

Btw all the questions above are not intended from a political / ethical point of view because a novel is not a political tract. It's about what I enjoy reading and about how the experience of the novel is weakened for me by over simplification, etc. And for me, particularly, oversimplification about What Women Want. Why not have a central male character who just wants the moody anti-hero, quite enjoys being raped, thinks theory is a load of sillu rubbish for pretentious people and has shelves full of books about people getting married? (unfair point of comparison: every single one of those name checked in the book, as far as I remember, is a work of towering genius that knocks this out of the park - why mention them? - I don't go looking for models to be photographed next to) That book I might have found less annoying.
Disclaimer: one of my favourite novels is money which I am re-reading now and it is so so so very suspect in so many ways if you want to be po-faced about it, but it is so cracklingly brilliantly subtly written that there is a depth to the attitudes in it that go beyond the apparent hateyness.

vezzie Thu 03-May-12 09:30:29

Or maybe my question is [peers over glasses]: Mr Eugenides, did you mean to be so rude?

A quick reminder that even if you haven't read/finished the Marriage Plot, do feel free to join in the discussion tonight to ask Mr Eugenides about his other novels, his writing life, anything you like...

Thank you to all those above for putting their excellent questions forward - we'll kick off with those. And sorry to those who can't make it, hope you get the chance to look at the chat afterwards.

Looking forward to tonight immensely, see you at 9pm sharp.

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