I enjoyed both The Virgin Suicides and Middlesex and thus was looking forward to Eugenides’ 2011 creative output. It’s all about ivy league unis, the 1980’s, English literature, young things, young love, parents, mental illness and the angst of life in general. What’s not to like?
About two thirds of the novel, as it turns out.
It all starts so well and builds nicely into a romantic love triangle with Madeleine, Leonard and Mitchell as the points.
But from part two, ‘Pilgrims’ I begin to loose a little interest and am obliged to speed read. The clue, for me is in part the second’s title as the author takes us on a somewhat tortuous and ultimately unnecessary tour of duty through Europe and the Indian sub-continent.
Jeffery, if you’re going to subject us to lengthy and multiple excursions please get your geographical facts straight.
To anyone reading this briefest of reviews and planning to travel through inland Spain including such places as Barcelona, Seville and the two Pueblos Blancos of Jerez and Ronda do not go the way our protagonists choose. It would be foolish and wrong. I found myself speaking to Mr Eugenides. Out loud.
Again, I want, nay need, to point out that the main casino in Monte Carlo is not on the waterfront. Small point perhaps but there’s something wrong about every place I’ve been so I guess there must be mistakes in the tumble weed of other destinations as well.
Anyway, these snagging issues spoil the book for me. It could all have happened on America’s Eastern Seaboard and the story would have been shorter, the characters more likeable (possibly) and I would be a happier reader.
As a wee child I loved the Madeleine picture books and many said my oldest daughter looked like the movie Madeleine. That’s one thing. In ‘a great American novel’ I do not need quotations from Madeleine rammed down my jugular to the point where I am convinced that our heroine’s name is chosen so Madeleine quotations can be rammed down my jugular, Miss Clavel can chase me down a boarding school corridor (even if it is in Paris) and my bedroom decoration can come to life as realistically as Charlotte Gilman’s Yellow Wallpaper.
I want to read about young things, uni life and the angst of youth as promised.
The opening is good. The ending is good. I would like to have written both. But not the rest.