Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex

By Jeffrey Eugenides

  • Release Date: 2002-09-04
  • Genre: Literary
Score: 4.5
4.5
From 988 Ratings

Description

A dazzling triumph from the bestselling author of The Virgin Suicides--the astonishing tale of a gene that passes down through three generations of a Greek-American family and flowers in the body of a teenage girl.

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blond clasmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia- back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City and Prohibition, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie's grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.

Spanning eight decades--and one unusually awkward adolescence- Jeffrey Eugenides's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire. It marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, named one of America's best young novelists by both Granta and The New Yorker.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Reviews

  • Deserving of the Pulitzer

    4
    By DoctorMarkus
    Written by the author of The Virgin Suices, this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003. As with most contemporary and literary fiction, the time frame jumps around, the point of views shifts, and the subject matter is deep. However, in this case, I found many of these literary devices seemless and intimately tied to the narrative and meaning of the story. Calliope is the narrator of the story, and she begins by telling us that she was “born twice”—first as a baby girl, and then as a teenage boy. As the story unfolds, we learn the reason for this: she was a hermaphrodite. Much of the first half of the novel is spent in the past, narrating gone lives of her Greek grandparents, noting their lives but also the fluke of genetics that would lead to her/his biological anomaly—the marriage of this brother and sister as they fled Greece and the Turkish attack on Smyrna. Through their lives we read of their time in Detroit during Prohibition, the lives of their children, and their lives in Detroit during the Race Riots—eventually leading to the birth of Callie. Of course, much of this has nothing to do with Calliopse’s condition, it is an interesting and historical look into those cultures and the lives of the fictional people within them. In between, we are treated to brief snippets of the male Callie’s life, just moments here and there of the difficulties of navigating life as a male after growing up as a female. But the latter part of the book turns to Callie’s life as a child and then an adolescent. Much of her life is the stuff of growing up: learning to relate with friends, parents, and others; the awkwardness and exploration of puberty and teenage years. Of course, Calliope’s coming-of-age story is different because of her condition, unknown to her and her parents until she reached the age of 15 and it became clear something was wrong. The rest of the story pours forth: doctors, family strife, fear, denial and acceptance, and an exploration of what it means to be a male after having been raised a female. I won’t spoil the book by going further. The books covers eight decades of a family line, delves into gender confusion, sexual desires, and the search for one’s place in the world. While gender fluidity and transgender are hot topics of discussion today, Eugenides avoids any social or political commentary, and merely tells the story of a genetic anomaly (perhaps some might read the few references to “a new humanity” as commentary). Instead, the story invites us to think about a imperfect world, which includes an imperfect biology. It asks us to think about what it means to be “different,” especially when different is a rarity. It is an imaginative book, pulling from Greek history, mythology, genetic science, and American history. The style is quite readable and avoids the often confusing experimention of much contemporary literary novels. Stunning, perhaps, is the ability of Eugenides to write as a first-person female and seeming to do it with ease (though I should perhaps leave that to female readers). Parts of it may make some readers feel prurient, and some might think the graphic descriptions are unnecessary. One could argue those sections are necessary because of the subject of the book, and that Eugenides keeps to fairly clinical descriptions, but it might make some readers uncomfortable. It is easy to see why this book won the Pulitzer Prize. If you are ready for the scope, length, and subject matter of the book, you will probably enjoy it.
  • Incredible descriptions, but a long read

    4
    By Literary Fan
    I am not as much a fan of this as many of the other reviewers. I thought that the lengthy descriptions and the narrative voice distracted from the arc of the story, alhough I loved the historic details and the life lessons that were woven throughout. I had to make myself finish the book as part of my quest to read every Pulitzer Prize fiction winner otherwise, I’d likely have stopped before the end. The author’s voice, character names, vivid details, and brilliant turns of phrases stick with the reader even when other bits fade.
  • Very imaginative and top notch writing

    5
    By Long legion
    This novel is one I won't soon forget. His characters are fully developed and written with such compassion, I felt as if I knew them! What a unique story.....written in a way to keep the reader interested all the way through. I loved it.
  • Eye opening

    5
    By Adriboo;)
    I read this book for an English class and loved it. The first pages were a little slow but I was immediately hooked after.
  • Middlesex

    5
    By CRWLC
    Such a detailed and well woven story.
  • Exceptional.

    5
    By Pjh906
    And irreverent and I adore the style,language, hutzpah of our Author. Bravo for works at large
  • Middlesex

    5
    By mommy a
    Eugenides. Crystallizes the depth and uniqueness of ethnic continuity.i suspect that one need not be Greek to appreciate the varied roles , perspectives and the sustenance family offers, and how it is juxtaposed with the inherent jealousies ,and predictable absurdities that exist with every extended family. But what is truly remarkable is the central concept of the genetic anomaly that occurs here and how remarkably Cal handles this with wisdom, ultimately, and possibly poetically absolving Desdemona of her primary guilt, clearing her way to .......go.
  • Life never turns out to be what you expected.

    5
    By VioletBicycle
    I loved this book, couldn't put it down. A few reviews I have read, the reader hated it, never finished it. That is probably because they thought it was "weird". Well, it's not "weird", it's just life. We don't all experience the same things. We do, however, all have secrets and heartaches.
  • Hard to finish...

    3
    By mganthony
    The author is too descriptive...o we really need your description of the fog rolling in, in San Francisco? I mean get to the point, it's long overdue at this point anyway. Why did we have to have back & forth with "the man" as he is now, pointless. Just tell Calliopa's story and leave it with her watching the house. Cut out all the jumping back & forth between current and then, this will lose about 150 pages and you've got a much better novel. Loved the family history and stories. As a Detroiter, I loved those descriptions as well. Not a bad read, but could have been better.
  • Perfection

    5
    By carlopa
    Simply a full journey into what narrative story telling is all about. Humor, plot, character, and theme took me away away.