“…to be happy you have to find variety in repetition; that to go forward you have to come back where you began.”
Published: September 4, 2002
Rate: 3.5 ⭐⭐⭐
Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.
“Like Tiresias, I was first one thing and then the other.”
I read Middlesex with 3 other friends of mine and here is what we thought about it.
Middlesex had me going in between loving the book and being frustrated. One major thing I loved is the vivid descriptions. From the cities, to the people to the scenes. Loved it all! The narrative goes back and forth between his life as a 41 year old man and a young girl. The story mesh up beautifully, her origin generations before she was even born and how it affected and impacted his life now. I also loved how Jeffrey explores intersectionality and how he brings out the conversation.
That being said, I found the book slow and dragging and more often than not I wanted to stop. It was quite slow and I think if I wasn’t buddy reading with my friends, I would have abandoned it.
I think Middlesex is a book about second chances. About rebirth and having a new lease on life, on decisions. Like when the grandparents married off. Siblings getting married is generally frowned upon but in this case, they did a ‘bad’ thing while trying to escape a ‘worse’ thing and this in turn gave rise to a different and beautiful thing. Do two things make a right though? Was Calliope a result of a good thing or a bad thing? That is left up to one’s judgements. Calliope on the other hand, lived as a girl and then a boy. Two different sides of the same coin. Seeing him ‘transition’ from who she was to who he is was a tremendous journey.
This book also focuses on transition. The grandparents, the parents, Callie, the bar, the cultures and traditions, even where they lived. Everyone and everything changed state. Everything was not black or white. A book of greys. It was such a human book to read. Because it speaks of flaws in a way that makes you sympathise with the flawed. I don’t know if this makes sense. These are the things that resonated within me from the book. Albeit, it’s been a while since I read and I didn’t keep notes, this is what stuck with me. I’d recommend this book. 5 stars from me.
Jeffrey Eugenides writing was beyond spectacular and I can see why “Middlesex” won the Putlizer Prize . The characters stayed with me soon after the book was over.
I will definitely be reading more of his work because this was nothing short of 5 stars!
Calliope’s story is nothing short of remarkable, Eugenides weaves dozens of characters and sub-plots, as well as large doses of history, in a rich, vivid way that left me breathless most of the time while building the whole plot into a dazzling, seamless narrative. I found his writing style poetic, addictive even and I believe that kept me going especially when the story cooled down a bit.
Themes that came to me while at it were gender, sex, ethnic cleansing, underworld crime, race, poverty, fatal accidents, transition, traditions…
Despite the profound narration, the tale comes almost as a disappointment when the focus narrows to the narrator’s personal story as too little is revealed. And the story ending almost made me weep. How dare he give us that. In the end I felt ‘Middlesex’ deserved 5⭐
It’s often said one book isn’t read the same and this is proof of it. Have you read Middlesex? What did you think about it?