It's the early 1980s-the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafEs 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. 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. Are the great love stories of the nineteenth century dead? Or can there be a new story, written for today and alive to the realities of feminism, sexual freedom, prenups, and divorce? With devastating wit and an abiding understanding of and affection for his characters, Jeffrey Eugenides revives the motivating energies of the Novel, while creating a story so contemporary and fresh that it sounds like the intimate journal of our own lives.