Saturday, 3 August 2013

'The Marriage Plot'

I was teaching last term about the marriage plot in Victorian novels and researching some articles when I remembered about this book - I hadn't read it so I marked it down as something to read in the summer holidays (which is always a bit of a hit and miss strategy, to be honest, as everything goes on this list...things to read along with longstanding projects like 'make a headboard for the bed' - unlikely to happen!). I did actually read this one though, while self consciously attempting to bronze my skin on a sun lounger in Greece.

The comment from The Times should have alerted me, to be fair. For some reason, I didn't love 'One Day' - I couldn't find it in me to like the character of Dexter so that sort of ruined things! I had the same sort of pickle with this novel - the characters didn't fully engage my sympathies. This isn't to say that the book is badly written and I did enjoy the characterisation of the Hanna family and Mitchell's love of them (a bit like an American version of 'Brideshead Revisited' perhaps). I also loved Euginides' depictions of different places, especially of India and Pilgrim Lake.

The book is postmodern in its use of different perspectives (sometimes re-telling the same event) and its manipulation of ideas of marriage and their presentation in Victorian novels. This is most obvious in a marriage which takes place half way through the novel. This could have been really interesting, but I struggled to be fully sold on this marriage - I didn't feel that Eugenides fully developed the reasons behind it. I don't want to give a way the conclusion of the novel, but this too was frustrating; I can understand why Euginides might want to subvert what we might have come to expect from a marriage plot, but for a summer holiday reader this didn't make it less annoying!

Despite not proclaiming an ardent love for Victorian novels, perhaps I do like some of their certainties after all; for me, 'The Marriage Plot' was an interesting but not quite satisfying enough read.

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