“Extreme Solitude” by Jeffrey Eugenides is a smart story that draws the reader into the character of Madeleine and her world of undergraduate literature classes and her exploration of semiotics and love.
Madeleine is balanced with Leonard, who as her love interest, is also her opposite. Where Madeleine is naive and predictable, Leonard is cynical and unpredictable. What works well in this story is how Eugenides weaves the texts which Madeleine is reading for class with her thoughts regarding her and Leonard’s relationship.
As the story progresses, Madeleine’s love for Leonard grows and expands. What will happen when that love bubbles over? Couched in the context of communication and structure, Eugenides is able to use Madeleine and Leonard to edge around the ideas of sex and love.