A book titled The Marriage Plot by an author with a Greek surname, could conjure images of a story about an arranged marriage by way of good old-fashioned Greek proxy. Not here however – this is something truly different, and very special.

The title is in fact a reference to a literary term that describes a story line that focuses on the hurdles a couple can face en route to possible nuptials. And the Greek surname is that of American writer, Jeffrey Eugenides. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides (1999) was made into a film by Sophia Coppola; his second Middlesex (2002) won him a Pulitzer prize. The Marriage Plot is his third novel, and with quality like that having preceded it, it is obvious the man can write.

The story line wraps itself around the three main protagonists. We have Madeleine, a self-confessed bibliophile that upon finding an unloved book would ‘read it for a little while to make the sad old book better’; Mitchell, the emotional and spiritual one that ponders over a girl’s posterior so much it ‘gave him the weird feeling that it was staring back at him’; and Leonard, whose sharp wit, confidence and success with the ladies makes him the envy of many, including Mitchell.

We learn how the three have come to know one another, the narrative switching between the three players across some long, but thoroughly enjoyable chapters: we also learn each person’s opinion of the other. Mitchell’s views on Leonard in particular, provide some of the book’s absolute highlights. The three of them form a most atypical love triangle, and one that sends us from college graduation day 1982 at Brown University to New Jersey, to New York, to Paris, to Athens, to India; each location providing it’s own distinct colour to what is very much, a coming of age tale.

Characters come face to face with real-world issues, requiring decisions that will impact upon them for the rest of their lives. Through it all, Madeleine becomes the anchor, we see a very different side to Leonard to the one that we first meet early in the piece, and Mitchell at one point even volunteers at a charity hospital run by Mother Teresa. It is an amazing story with a little bit of everything.

The often breathtaking prose is so infectious and clever that it will actually make you smile. There are descriptions of an ex-boyfriend having the wit of a store mannequin; of someone’s nose resembling that of a saluki (a Persian greyhound); and of work in a lab as being as interesting as combing out head lice. The imagery is sheer brilliance.

Eugenides is widely proclaimed as a great American writer, and on the back of this, it is little wonder. He actually studied at Brown University in the 1980s, and despite this not being an autobiography, he has commented publicly that there are some parallels with Mitchell. What is also obvious is Eugenides’ absolute passion for literature: the use of references to writers of the past – both classic and contemporary – is a tool that he uses most effectively. It builds depth of character, as well as being educational and thoroughly entertaining.

All up, it makes for the almost perfect novel, one that is difficult to put down.

The Marriage Plot is truly worthy of high commendation and critical acclaim.