'There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.' Anthony Trollope It's the early 1980s. In American colleges, 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 studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different suitors, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead -- charismatic loner and college Darwinist -- suddenly turns up in a seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged 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 wife.