Welcome to another edition of Friday Potpourri, in which we celebrate Book Beginnings, hosted by A Few More Pages; and The Friday 56, led by Freda’s Voice.

If you’d like to participate, grab a book you’re reading (or about to read); excerpt your opening lines and a snippet from p. 56.  Then click over to the host pages and leave your link.

Today I’m spotlighting a book I’ve been excited about for awhile.  The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, is a tale of post-college life in the 1980s—and a romantic triangle.

Blurb:  It’s the early 1980s—the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

As Madeleine tries to understand why “it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in eighteenth-century France,” real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead—charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy—suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old “friend” Mitchell Grammaticus—who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange—resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology Laboratory on Cape Cod, but can’t escape the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.


Beginning:  To start with, look at all the books.  There were her Edith Wharton novels, arranged not by title but date of publication; there was the complete Modern Library set of Henry James, a gift from her father on her twenty-first birthday; there were the dog-eared paperbacks assigned in her college courses, a lot of Dickens, a smidgen of Trollope, along with good helpings of Austen, George Eliot, and the redoubtable Bronte sisters.

Hmm…perusing other people’s bookshelves is one of my favorite things.  I like how we get to see this character’s book love right away.  It sets the tone.


P. 56:  The next night, Saturday, the fickle weather turned cold again.  Madeleine was chilled in her brown suede jacket as she walked to the restaurant where they’d agreed to meet.  Afterward, they made their way to the Cable Car and found a sagging couch among the other mismatched sofas and armchairs that furnished the art-house cinema.


I’m hoping to immerse myself in this one by Sunday.  What opening lines and excerpts are teasing you today?  Come on by and share some tidbits.



  1. I love looking at bookshelves, too…reading is so personal and it is fun to see what appeals to others.

    I really want to read this book…I will look forward to your thoughts about it.


    1. I like the way you put that…”what someone reads and/or pretends to read.” I do know people who have books, especially those on their coffee tables, that are for show.

      That tells us a lot about the person, too.

      Thanks for stopping by, Juli, and enjoy your weekend.


  2. Hi Laurel-Rain,

    I love those opening lines, the first thing I always do is look around people’s houses to see what’s on their bookshelves. The problem is that many of my friends and family do not read (can you believe it?).
    I must admit that I will often just sit and look at the books on my shelves … usually to wish that I had the time to read them all.
    I love the sound of this book and the fact that the two suitors are studying such diverse subjects and surely must have such opposing views about ‘Darwinism’ and ‘Christianity’.
    I shall look out for your review with interest
    Have a lovely weekend and try to avoid the Christmas crowds!


  3. I’m so intrigued by this book, as I found Middlesex to be quite provocative and I just yesterday found out that I missed Eugenides at college by one year: drat! Looking forward to your review, and I might just pick this up for holiday travel…


  4. I, too, am looking forward to getting the chance to read The Marriage Plot by sir Eugenides. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the rest of the book!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog! hop on over again, anytime! have a good weekend


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