I just finished reading Jeffrey Eugenides's latest novel The Marriage Plot. It was a well-written, can't-put-it-down, I'm-going-to-read-this-in-the-bathtub sort of book - the type of book that makes you obsessive about finding out what happens next. And some would say that is the mark of a good book. After reading his previous book, Middlesex, I was curious to see what new tale Eugenides would spin out. Structurally based on the Victorian novel surrounding, you guessed it, the marriage plot, the story, set in the 80s, spins out as a web of relationships and an exploration of mental illness in one of the characters. Compelling. Complex.
But comparing the book with the book I read before (Abraham Verghese's Cutting For Stone) and the book I read before that (Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles), I wondered if the general formula for fiction was the same. Along the arc of each of the stories, there were moments of learning, love, sexual awakening. Sure the stories were different but, it seems to me that the basic ingredients are all the same. Getting to certain moments in a fictive narrative, part of me rolls my eyes in familiar acknowledgement while another part of me just devours it. Somehow, perhaps, it isn't hackneyed. Maybe these are the moments to which we can all relate.