Review GPA: THE MARRIAGE PLOT by Jeffrey Eugenides

In Review GPA, we translate reviews of notable new books into letter grades and determine a grade point average.

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The Marriage Plot is probably the biggest literary release of the fall, so there are not only reviews in all the major publications, but they are also being written by the heavy hitters. Here we go.

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From The New York Times Review by Michiku Kakutani:

Gold Star:

It’s in mapping Mitchell’s search for some sort of belief that might fill the spiritual hole in his heart and Madeleine’s search for a way to turn her passion for literature into a vocation that this novel is at its most affecting, reminding us with uncommon understanding what it is to be young and idealistic, in pursuit of true love and in love with books and ideas.

Demerit:

“The Marriage Plot” revolves around a love triangle that develops among Madeleine and two men — the charismatic Leonard and the adoring Mitchell — and it turns out to be a lot less dramatic and a lot less daring than the author’s earlier novels.

Grade: B+

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From Entertainment Weekly review by Leah Greenblatt:

Gold Star:

“Still, there are serious pleasures here for people who love to read: diamond-sharp observations and dazzling sentences that nearly justify the nine-year wait.”

Demerit:

“…some fans of his swooning suburban-teen fever dream The Virgin Suicides and Pulitzer Prize-winning hermaphrodite epic Middlesex may be disappointed that The Marriage Plot is in many ways a smaller kind of book, even though it clocks in at over 400 pages and is nearly bursting with Big Ideas.”

Grade: B
(Assigned by publication)

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From the Los Angeles Times review by Carolyn Kellog:

Gold Star: 

“Last year, Franzen’s “Freedom” was a bestseller; like “The Marriage Plot,” it’s a robust, rich story of adults in a love triangle. Eugenides benefits by the comparison: This book is sweeter, kinder, with a more generous heart. What’s more, it is layered with exactly the kinds of things that people who love novels will love.”

Demerit: 

“…the Wallace echo is enriching, but it is also distracting. The deeper Eugenides explores Leonard’s mental illness, the less comfortable it is to associate him with the doomed writer.”

Grade: A-

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From The Guardian Review by Tim Adams:

Gold Star:

The tight plotting and internalised psychology of this new novel, allied to the full sweep of ideas and social observation and quiet comedy that characterised Eugenides’s earlier works, are signs of a new maturity.

Demerit:

None.

Grade: A

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From The Wall Street Journal review by Sam Sacks:

Gold Star…..and Demerit:

In many ways this novel is sly, fun entertainment, a confection for English majors and book lovers—but it leaves a bad aftertaste.

Grade: C+

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Review GPA: 3.34 (B+)

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