Posted by: Ele Quigan | June 23, 2012

‘The Marriage Plot’ Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve had a bit of a crazy week this week – I got back from Turkey Wednesday, and was off to New York on Sunday morning. I’m not usually one for immediate work travel like that, so both a nice surprise and good fun, I was really excited to be heading to the BIG APPLE… I’d had this book in the back of my head, and then managed to watch a slightly cheesy film on the way over called ‘Young Adult’ – and within this premise plus a couple of catchups that were at times drunken and more than a bit hilarious – I think this coupled with jetlag, totally turned my brain to some type of functional porridge reflecting the best and worst of the last 15 years straight back in my face.

There’s always the one that got away, there’s also the one you always felt like you were supposed to end up with, but are in some senses surprised you ended up the way you did and with the one you have. There’s the ones that help you grow, there are ones that hinder you. There are ones that made you feel like the most amazing person on earth, and the ones that emacerated every last shred of self-confidence until you were a hollowed out shell of your former self that took decades to recover from (well, maybe not decades, but fracking AGES). There’s blips on the radar who you regret and have trouble recalling their names, and blips that you’ll never forget. There’s childish romances and seemingly adult relationships at an age where you’re too young to drive let alone consider the implications of words said. There’s ones that revelled in making you laugh, and ones that revelled in making you cry (or at least it felt like that at the time…)

Why the drive back into the ghosts of boyfriends past? ‘The Marriage Plot’ is about the years of college – first loves, first breakups, with a solid dose of harrowing mental illness on the side.

It felt like ‘One day’ for the first half, female literature student, this time from an incredibly wealthy background, stuck in a past history of boys she liked and those she didn’t. The one true love who broke up with her and drove her into the ground, who she ends up with like some kind of glorious change in luck (surely, this is the time for the Twilight reference I manage to get into EVERY. SINGLE. BLOGPOST. wtf is wrong with me?!) But this man has a few problems, and the biggest, being that he has manic depression.

Mental illness is shit. It’s awful and horrible and can turn you into a person that you (and the ones you love the most) hate. But on the flipside, some elements of it can turn you into someone who is loved or exciting or something fragile. Manic depression I’ve always found interesting, as it’s strictly chemical – and therefore theoretically controllable – whereas other mental illnesses are situational in nature (that totally isn’t an official term for it…). So if that is the case with Manic Depression, does that mean you can let yourself with an element of self control, go a little nuts?

I’m purely pontificating of course. I’m neither suggesting that as a good idea or even advocating the risk of messing with your own head, however it’s an interesting premise There are moments in ‘The Marriage Plot’ that seem at times the most exciting thing in the world, screw the far reaching effects. ‘We all go a little mad sometimes’ right?

‘Young adult’ felt almost similar – professional female turned alcoholic goes back to her old town to prise her old flame from the clutches of his wife and new baby. Sound cynical enough? It’s a great film – Charlize Theron plays little miss popular b*tchface who you loved to hate at school with particular aplomb.

So why did I enjoy both of these inherently sad treatise on relationships? Because sometimes a trip down memory lane is needed to remember how you got to where you are. To look at your old self and be pleased you’re not a horrendous b*tch anymore (at least 99% of the time). To see where you learnt more about yourself than you ever thought possible, and even those breakups that left you crying into your pillow for minutes/hours/days/weeks/months that you’re still a better person for it. That even tho you don’t know what’s going to happen during the next 15 years, no matter what you’re still going to end up alright.

Life just has a way of working itself out. Even allowing for those little crazy moments.

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