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Middlesex: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – June 5, 2007
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Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:
Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ... I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever.
When you get to the end of this splendorous book, when you suddenly realize that after hundreds of pages you have only a few more left to turn over, you'll experience a quick pang of regret knowing that your time with Cal is coming to a close, and you may even resist finishing it--putting it aside for an hour or two, or maybe overnight--just so that this wondrous, magical novel might never end. --Brad Thomas Parsons
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The brilliance of this book emerges not from the superficial story of a hermaphrodite but from the context - historical, scientific, psychological, political, geographical - of Cal's birth and subsequent rebirth. MIDDLESEX is about much more than gender confusion. Cal's mixed gender can be taken as a metaphor for the experience of first- and second-generations born of immigrants.
While the context of this story provides the substance, the characters provide the vibrancy. Cal emerges as a reliable and likeable narrator. He is sensible, good-humored, and intelligent. The spectrum of his experiences provides a smooth transition between childhood and adult, enabling the reader to embrace the character as both male and female. Cal's family is affectionately portrayed, even with their failings. (Cal's brother, Chapter Eleven, annoyed me with his name, a running gag, but even he ended up a full-blooded character by the end.)
Eugenides has written an expansive, compelling book. Despite its length of over 500 pages, the novel is not a slow read - unless the reader wants it to be, to make it last. Accessible, intelligent, well-paced and plotted, it should appeal to a wide range of readers.
I can't recommend this novel highly enough.
1) the novel cannot be so narrowly defined as simply being about a hermaphrodite; it's about the American dream; racism; finding oneself; the difficulties and confusing emotions of adolescence; politics; the inextricable link between history and each human being affecting and being affected by it... put simply, it's about life. And:
2) Eugenides' writing style is so descriptive and engaging that the reader is transported directly into the mind of the narrator, making the fact that Callie happens to be a hermaphrodite almost irrelevant--she/he is just a normal person with a slightly unusual body.
By the end of Book 3 I was convinced this was the best book I ever read. And then I read Book 4, the last 100 pages, and felt cheated, robbed somehow of the magic of the first 400 pages. The novel takes an exceedingly far-fetched and rambling turn; it is almost palpable that Eugenides was getting pressure from the publisher to wrap things up and rushed through the end of the book without really thinking through a satisfying conclusion. The writing style falls apart; the descriptiveness and magic is gone, and the story degenerates into a rather plain narrative of a freak's life. The real heart of the matter, how a seemingly normal person who happens to be a hermaphrodite copes with the discovery, never comes, and the 25 years of Callie's life between end of story and beginning of narration are never explained. Eugenides almost gives in to the freak factor by the end, leaving the reader with the lingering sensation upon finishing the book that Callie is merely a circus sideshow.
So, proportional to the number of pages that I thought this book was great, it gets 4 out of 5 stars from me. Almost but not quite!
The novel follows three generations of the Stephanides family, and it faces a general problem with such multigenerational works --it's hard to get the reader deeply involved in the lives of the grandparents, then put these characters aside and transfer one's interest to the parents, and then finally to make a third transfer of interest to the children.
Eugenides succeeded in getting me interested in the grandparents (Desdemona and Lefty), their escape from Turkey, and their life in America. But the second generation, Milton and Tessie, was less compelling. Milton becomes a cliche'd Archie Bunker sort of character, and Tessie isn't well-developed at all. They are not very interesting or memorable characters, and we spend way too much time with them.
Cal/Callie's story is fascinating, but it seems to end far too soon. The book ends shortly after s/he has discovered and accepted her transgendered nature at age 15. But the narrator is roughly 40, and we don't get to learn anything about the intervening 25 years. How did Cal get from being a newly discovered boy to being a diplomat in Germany? What was his life like in the intervening years? And what is it like now?
There are real flashes of brilliance in this book, but ultimately I was disappointed and feel that it doesn't come together.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book was an interesting but meandering story. I had to put it down several times and go back to it.Published 13 hours ago by Gloria Watson
I found it to be very long, dry, and very boring at times. I usually love this author.Published 6 days ago by iambydefault
Very interesting and informative.Looking forward to other books by this author.Published 8 days ago by Nora Drago
Very interesting read. I loved the combination of mythology and realism - the retelling of the Turkish invasion was chilling.Published 10 days ago by kirstin
A fascinating book, it began and ended well. The history of what happened when Greece invaded Turkey at the behest of foreign powers, only to be abandoned once its ill-advised... Read morePublished 12 days ago by Ulys