The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

First of all, let me state that I loved Eugenides’ 2002 novel Middlesex. And I wanted to love his newest novel, The Marriage Plot, the same way. But that did not happen. I will also tell you that the reviews for this book are through the roof, this is a book that critics love.

It is the story of a triangle of characters: Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell. They are college seniors at Brown University in the early 1980’s. Madeleine, an English literature major, is drawn to Leonard who is not only brilliant but also manic depressive. Mitchell is in love with Madeleine, but she does not feel the same way. Mitchell, stumbles into studying religion and after graduation, he ends up in Calcutta working with the poor. Madeleine and Leonard live together and eventually get married, and Leonard’s illness is a big cloud over their lives.

Each of the characters are seeking some kind of fulfillment or maybe just some basic answers about their lives. Each person is very unique and yet they are all somehow connected in their confusion about their future, professionally and personally. My problem with this novel is that I wished it had a more interesting glue to hold it all together.

Eugenides does many things so well. I loved the development of the characters, especially when we went back to their earlier lives. But somehow, as a reader, I did not care about this story as much as I should have. There were many references to books and authors that got in the way of the story and characters. All I know is that the desire to love this book was bigger than the reality. I liked it, but did not loooooove it.

As soon as I finished the book, I picked up A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd. This is the third in the Bess Crawford mystery series. Mystery series are such comfort to me, as you are familiar with the characters and the background, and you can just sit back and be entertained. And that is exactly what happened.

Bess Crawford is a battlefield nurse during World War I and she travels back and forth from France to England. There seems to be a mystery whenever she has a leave from her duties. In this book, Bess stumbles upon a mystery and gets involved with a family and their secrets and a few murders as well.

Bess is the daughter of an Army officer and grew up in India. She is an interesting character and is pretty direct and strong. This was another good mystery and yet I wish the big reveal at the end had been better introduced. But it was still smart, entertaining and a page turner.

Charles Todd is a mother and son writing team from the United States and I hope they keep this series going for a long time.

Recommended reading:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and A Duty To The Dead And An impartial Witness by Charles Todd

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  • Aledys Ver  On January 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

    A pity that The Marriage Plot didn’t quite do it for you – at least not as much as you had expected. Just yesterday I came across Middlesex while browsing book reviews and I added it to my list – I guess I’ll start with The Marriage… and then move to Middlesex; do you think it’s a good idea?

    The Bess Crawford mysteries sound good. It is indeed a delight when you take up a new book from a series – you are familiar with the character, the tone, the language – you just need to put the kettle on, pour yourself a cuppa, pick up the next book and see what’s going on this time… 🙂

    Thanks so much for your tips, Jane!

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