Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a disappointment (The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenedies) and a nice surprise (Make It Stay by Joan Frank)

I confess....I'm harder on authors I love...

I was so looking forward to this.  I even paid more than a few bucks to get it "early" (i.e. before there were super-cheap used ones floating around).  Middlesex is among my favorite reads and The Virgin Diaries was also a strong read.  I find my favorite books are from authors who don't churn out too many books and this was eagerly anticipated.  Perhaps that set me up for disappointment.

There are three young people at the heart of this novel, all of whom we meet in college and follow in the year after graduation.  Madeline is a lover of literature and enamoured by the idea of love.  She finds herself torn between Leonard, a manic-depressive scientist, and Mitchell, a romantic seeking enlightenment and value in religion and thought.  There is also a good bit of literary theory here, especially in the earlier chapters, and a hint of spirituality vs. science debates.

I'd had high hopes and was sorely disappointed by this read.  I'd give it 2.5 stars and am tempted to round down though admit that the review is harsher b/c of my high hopes.  I don't need to LIKE characters, but I need to CARE and I simply never did.  I related at points to Madeline's English major thoughts of theory taking the joy out of reading, but that's about it.  The writing was merely okay rather than captivating like in Eugenedies' prior works.  Can't recommend this one.
I recieved this short novel as a Goodreads giveaway winner.  I might have been hesitant to purchase it on my own since I shy away from shorter novels.  I loved it though so I'm quite glad that the giveaway brought it to me.

This is a novel of characters and relationships.  The narrator is Rachel and she and her husband, Neil, spend much of the novel sharing the story of another couple, Neil's best friend Mike and Mike's wife Tilda.  We also briefly see the story of Mike and Tilda's daughter, Addie.  There's a limited amount of action with the novel really being about the relationships and the ways love manifests itself.

I loved this book and happily give it 4 stars, at points I was leaning towards 4.5.  I loved the writing style which reminded me of Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking (aka Notes on a Scandal).  The characters were interesting and imperfect, the love real and flawed.  The writing was accessible but still lovely.  This book is definitely for a reader who likes character over plot and I'd highly recommend it to such an audience. 

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