Customer Review

544 of 572 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific novel!, March 25, 2003
This review is from: Middlesex: A Novel (Hardcover)
From the first sentence of Jeffrey Eugenides' MIDDLESEX, I was hooked by this complicated tale of a young girl who grows into a man. The story of Cal Stephanides begins generations before his birth, in a small Greek village, when his grandparents succumb to incestuous desires. Immigration to the United States keeps Desdemona and Lefty's secret intact - until their grandchild Cal reaches puberty. Told with both humor and earnestness, the story grows more engaging with every page.
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.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 24, 2008 8:22:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 24, 2008 8:23:27 AM PST
Star says:
Chapter Eleven's name bugged me, too--it was never explained. No business failures came before him...just quirky to be quirky, I guess. I did like this book--which I listened to in audio--I also highly recommend Kristoffer Tabori's narration.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2009 1:45:27 AM PST
denedim says:
chapter eleven is the code for bankruptcy - it becomes clear when towards the end, callie says her (his) brother drives the family business down the drain..

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 11, 2009 3:59:33 AM PST
You are correct, Denedim. Both Star (judging by his/her comment) and I know what Chapter Eleven means; however, the name is still annoying. Despite this, it is only a tiny flaw in a fantastic novel.

Posted on Dec 29, 2009 12:13:32 AM PST
Kona says:
Great review, Debbie. I thought "Chapter Eleven" was a silly name, too. Surely, I thought, they would just call him "Eleven," but they didn't. It was quite a story! Detailed and enthralling.

Posted on Oct 4, 2011 10:08:11 AM PDT
Debbie--excellent review. I haven't read it yet (been on my tbr for years!) but just finished MARRIAGE PLOT. Not having read MIDDLESEX, it is possible my love for his new book is proportionally more than will be the fans of THIS book.

Just an intuition that this book may be the better book, although, something you said stood out: >the characters provide the vibrancy< Well, that is SO true of MP, also. It is what makes the novel more than what it is. (Also, it is urbane, scholarly, witty, with a ferociously dark wit).

Also, the context/background is what gives the reader the "feel" of it. You do feel like you are living in 1982 in MP. However, I speculate that the historical context is even richer in MIDDLESEX.

Anyay, thanks for a perfect review--it was enough to inspire me to read it, but didn't contain any spoilers.

Switterbug

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2011 10:27:29 AM PDT
Thanks, Switterbug. I've have several books to read before I tackle Marriage Plot, but it's high on my TBR pile. You convinced me to keep it there.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2014 12:56:03 PM PDT
svetlana7e says:
Star, I am with you. Listen this book to audio. Kristoffer Tabori is brilliant!!
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Reviewer

Debbie Lee Wesselmann
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (2008 HOLIDAY TEAM)   

Location: the Lehigh Valley, PA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 57