A stunning novel—erudite, compassionate and penetrating in its analysis of love relationships.
Eugenides focuses primarily on three characters, who all graduate from Brown in 1982. One of the pieces of this triangle is Madeleine Hanna, who finds herself somewhat embarrassed to have emerged from a "normal" household in New Jersey (though we later find out the normality of her upbringing is only relative). She becomes enamored with Leonard, a brilliant but moody student, in their Semiotics course, one of the texts being, ironically, Roland Barthes'ÃÂ A Lover's Discourse, which Madeleine finds disturbingly problematic in helping her figure out her own love relationship. We discover that Leonard had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder during his first year at Brown, and his struggle with mood swings throughout the novel is both titanic and tender. The third major player is Mitchell, a Religious Studies major who is also attracted to Madeleine but whose reticence she finds both disturbing and incomprehensible. On graduation day, Leonard has a breakdown and is hospitalized in a mental-health ward, and Madeleine shows her commitment by skipping the festivities and seeking him out. After graduation, Leonard and Madeleine live together when Leonard gets an internship at a biology lab on Cape Cod, and the spring after graduation they marry, when Leonard is able to get his mood swings under temporary control. Meanwhile Mitchell, who takes his major seriously, travels to India seeking a path—and briefly finds one when he volunteers to work with the dying in Calcutta. But Mitchell's road to self-discovery eventually returns him to the States—and opens another opportunity for love that complicates Madeleine's life.
Dazzling work—Eugenides continues to show that he is one of the finest of contemporary novelists.
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A Pulitzer Prize winner for Middlesex, which has sold more than three million copies, and of the darkly delicious The Virgin Suicides (catch the Sofia Coppola film), Eugenides doesn't necessarily need me to rave about him. But I'm so taken with the idea behind this novel. Madeleine Hanna, a conscientious, neatly dressed English major in the early 1980s, blissfully reads Austen while everyone else studies Derrida. (Yes, I remember it well.) She finally decides to get hip by taking a semiotics class, where she meets irresistible loner Leonard Morten, who teaches her about more than signs and symbols. Meanwhile, the wittily named Mitchell Grammaticus, a voice from Madeleine's past, demands that they spend their lives together. A novel of ideas and triangular love from the brilliantly off-kilter Eugenides; with a one-day laydown, a national tour, library marketing, and a reading group guide. Get multiples.[Page 66]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"The way of true love never works out, except at the end of an English novel." So says Trollope in Barchester Towers, one of those English novels where "the marriage plot" thrived until it was swept aside by 20th-century reality. Now Roland Barthes's contention that "the lover's discourse is today of an extreme solitude" better sums up the situation. Or so English literature-besotted Madeleine, 1980s Brown graduating senior, comes to discover. Giving in to the zeitgeist, Madeleine takes a course on semiotics and meets Leonard, who's brilliant, charismatic, and unstable. They've broken up, which makes moody spiritual seeker Mitchell Grammaticus happy, since he pines for Madeleine. But on graduation day, Madeleine discovers that Leonard is in the hospital--in fact, he is a manic depressive with an on-again, off-again relationship with his medications--and leaps to his side. So begins the story of their love (but does it work out?), as Mitchell heads to Europe and beyond for his own epiphanies. VERDICT Your standard love triangle? Absolutely not. This extraordinary, liquidly written evocation of love's mad rush and inevitable failures will feed your mind as you rapidly turn the pages. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]--Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal[Page 83]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Eugenides's first novel since 2002's Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex so impressively, ambitiously breaks the mold of its predecessor that it calls for the founding of a new prize to recognize its success both as a novel--and as a Jeffrey Eugenides novel. Importantly but unobtrusively set in the early 1980s, this is the tale of Madeleine Hanna, recent Brown University English grad, and her admirer Mitchell Grammaticus, who opts out of Divinity School to walk the earth as an ersatz pilgrim. Madeleine is equally caught up, both with the postmodern vogue (Derrida, Barthes)--conflicting with her love of James, Austen, and Salinger--and with the brilliant Leonard Bankhead, whom she met in semiotics class and whose fits of manic depression jeopardize his suitability as a marriage prospect. Meanwhile, Mitchell winds up in Calcutta working with Mother Theresa's volunteers, still dreaming of Madeleine. In capturing the heady spirit of youthful intellect on the verge, Eugenides revives the coming-of-age novel for a new generation The book's fidelity to its young heroes and to a superb supporting cast of enigmatic professors, feminist theorists, neo-Victorians, and concerned mothers, and all of their evolving investment in ideas and ideals is such that the central argument of the book is also its solution: the old stories may be best after all, but there are always new ways to complicate them. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC