Review of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides


I have just finished reading this lovely weighty tome, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize), & whilst I had a little difficulty holding the book some nights due to the weight of it and thickness of it, I absolutely loved it.

It really was a brilliant epic read about a child who started life as a girl named Callie to become the man named Cal. You as the reader are taken through the life of a hermaphrodite who is also a second generation American. The novel very cleverly takes you through the sagas of a clan's desire for survival from Greece during the battles of the Turkish wars, being accepted into America, the Michigan race riots, the desires of the heart, and the changes of technology and society. Through all of this, the abnormal gene is scientifically traced through the generations just waiting to erupt.

The characters are so deeply developed in Middlesex that I felt that I knew Desdemona, the grandmother, Lefty, the grandfather, Cal, the central character, Milton, the father, Theodora, the mother, and Chapter Eleven, Cal's brother so well by the end of the book that I felt sad to leave them.

Eugenides takes the reader through the different eras with such style and grace capturing the elements and issues with such depth that the novel has so much more to it than just a scientific journey of an abnormal gene. He deals with incestuous love without judgment, he also has the constant undercurrent theme of how migrants settle into new countries and the difficulties involved with this, and coming of age is of course at the forefront.

The epic novel is broken into three books with the first taking you back to Greece with Desdemona and Lefty beginning their journey together, and you as the reader are left wondering whether it is by choice or that there are no other options for them. The second book is the journey of Milton and Tessie (Theodora) who are Desdemona and Lefty's child and their cousin Sourmelina (Lina) their cousin's child respectively and how their love for each other is irrepressible. The third book is the journey of Calliope, or Cal, or Callie, who is the child of Milton and Tessie and the torment that she goes through as she reaches, then passes puberty. All three books are in Cal's voice and are intercepted with moments of his life and the struggles that he has with this now.

Eugenides has managed to write something so well that could have either be over clinical, or over emotional, and he has done neither. He has written a brilliant epic novel that raises issues for parents who give birth to hermaphrodites, and a brilliant read for everyone else. Thank you Jeffrey.
My Score 9.5/10

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