A couple of weeks ago our book group met to discuss the long-awaited new novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot. I liked the book, but I didn't love it. I think two things were going on:
1. I might have liked it better if it had been written by someone else—or even if it had been written by Eugenides under a pseudonym. I guess I saw his name on the cover and thought, "It's going to be another Middlesex!" which of course it wasn't. Middlesex was easily one of the top ten books I've ever read, so I was bound to be disappointed if he couldn't pull that off again.
2. On the other hand, I might have liked it less if it had in fact been written by someone else. I was willing myself to like it because it was Eugenides, but perhaps if it had been some no-name debut novel, I wouldn't have even enjoyed it at all.
So. The three main characters are almost exactly my age, and their college and post-grad experiences and angst were quite similar in some ways to my own. Eugenides totally nailed everything about the early 1980s—trust me, it was all exactly like that. But, well, I just didn't like them all that much. Madeleine wasn't interesting to me at all, and in fact I wanted to shake her at more than one point because she was so annoying. Leonard isn't developed enough as a person; he becomes merely That Messed-Up Guy. And Mitchell, well, I guess I liked Mitchell pretty well, although I'm generally impatient when forced to be privy to someone else's spiritual quest for understanding and fulfillment.
The writing is also neither here nor there: A whole lot better than most of what's out there, but not nearly as mind-expanding and heart-twisting and breath-taking as Eugenides is capable of.
I don't know. I guess I'll say don't run out this minute to get your hands on this, but if you end up with a copy to read, you could do a lot worse.
Next up: Just Kids by Patti Smith.