Entirely too long, entirely too much backstory, and entirely undeserving of the Pulitzer Prize. Eudenides spends 3/4 of the book describing in great lengths an episodic history for all of the characters told from the point of view of a narrator who could not possibly know the level of detail he/she is giving.
The last 1/4 of the book is amazingly well-done, with flowing and informative prose, as well as giving the reader a plethora of medical information. I truly felt as if I was in the head of a hermaphrodite. The author excels at this. However, it reads incredibly slow, so only pick it up if you've got some time on your hands.
It's worth the read if you're either perseverant and don't mind a dense, background-heavy story, or if you're like me and are trying to read the Pulitzers.
Wonderful! Happy to see gender issues in main-stream literature! Though the book begins with a slower pace as the reader learns the rich history of Cal's grandparents, the second half of the novel flashs by with his personal story.
I loved the novel and wished it kept going... I didn't want to finish it knowing the story would be over. The reader is always aware of two time periods: the present Cal telling the story and his life unfolding during narration and, in the beginning the story of his family, while later in the novel the second time period is Cal's childhood.
I recommend this book if you have the time to devote to reading it, the intellegence to comprehend the wonderful literary techniques and vocabulary, and the trust in the author to deliver a brilliant story. Lastly, anyone studying sex and gender issues would thrill to read the second half, as a thorough workover of sociological nomemclature is utilized.
Cal has lived a life in two genders. Raised as a girl, he eventually discovers that he is a hermaphrodite, a person born with both male and female organs. But the story doesn't start here. To discover why Cal is the person he is, we have to go back in time to his grandparents in Greece, then to his parent's relationship, and finally back to Cal's life story as a little girl who found her life dramatically changing once she hit puberty. Middlesex is a wonderfully written novel about a controversial subject. In many ways, it is an epic. By the end of the novel, you will find yourself changed by the story of a little girl who grew up to discover that she was something else.
Fantastic book. It may take you a bit to get into the story - the author's style is unusual and the start of the book takes you into a foreign land. Beautifully crafted novel that will have you thinking about the story for days after.
I really liked this book. I'm a fan of long family dramas spanning multiple generations, but I've never read a book about a hermaphrodite before. There were a few parts in the story that I found a bit outlandish, the silk-worming in Detroit, for instance, with the cult-leader who ended up being none other than... (don't want to spoil it), the freak show incident in San Francisco, and the dramatic car chase at the end, just to name a few, great book regardless! I enjoyed the novel's focus on genetics. The sperm as narrator was brilliant, don't want to give too much away. I highly recommend this book, original!
I read this book in a book club long before Oprah found it and don't know why she hyped it up so much. I'm open to reading about pretty much anything, but just could not get into this book and was kind of irritated with it. That's just my opinion, but I thought I'd share it.
Pulitzer Prize winner? You have got to be kidding me. I hated it. A contemporary, disjointed, out-of-sync epic? Epic only in the sense of a tale told by a fool signifying nothing. I fail to see what the fascination is with this simplistic hermaphrodite tale where the fate of the Stephanides family is recounted in boring overly-spun prose. Cal/Calliope is no muse, no Ishmael, and no Holden Caulfield, struggling with his/her sexual identity.
An Oprah pick. Middlesex is both the name of the area in which the protagonist is raised and a term used to denote the gender state of the protagonist....or how Calliope become Cal, last name Stephanoides.It is a story that feels like a biography that relates the first 16yrs of a hemaphrodite's life. It also tells the story of a displaced Greek family and several generations thereof. It is witty believable and captivating.It is full of information as well as enjoyable.
Full of improbable (impossible?) coincidences, I still really liked this coming of age book. Imagine being raised as a girl, but never quite looking right after puberty, never fitting in, feeling lust for another girl, all the typical angst. Interspersed in this is the story of the family, beginning with the grandmother and her brother who flee their home as the Turks invade. I was fascinated, and I hated the book to end, and I also was a little disappointed in the ending - I think it could have gone a little further.
I thought this was a gripping story of the Stephanides family from Greece to Detroit. With all of the detail spent on the grandparents' and parents' stories, I wish more time had been devoted to Cal. I will recommend it to my bookclub; but many will find it too long to read.
I was a little disappointed that the majority of the book was about the generations of her family before her. It seemed like just when you are getting to know Calliope/Cal, the book is over. I thought overall it was a good book, just not great.
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! That being said, my best friend is trodding through it begrudgingly. For me it was one of my top 10 books I have ever read, I really enjoyed it, from beginning to end, I did not want to put it down. Several of my book club members told me they did not enjoy the beginning but liked it better once it got further along.
This makes my top 5 all time books list! The writing is beautiful. Historically interesting. For those who seem to get confused or frustrated with the long history and character development of the grandparents, it is such an important piece of this work IMO. Every single one of us, carries the lives of our ancestors in our DNA. We wouldn't be who we are, without them being first. I also enjoyed how the characters developed and changed over time, proving that we can make choices about our futures; we are not stuck or predestined.
The book goes back to the history of his grandparents and lists every detail of their lives then he arrives at his birth where he goes into details of his parents lives. Finally arriving at the point of the book his own sexual discovery and with only two chapters left the book is a let down. The history lessons in the story are interesting but over all the main story line fails to appear until the end and then it seems unfinished.
this book is a must read. it takes you from old world greece to mid century chicago to current day in a greek-american family. you know from the first few pages that the lead charachter is different from others but alas she does not find that out till later in the book
it is a good read but the end seemed to come fast and was not satisfying,he really should have thought more about it...or did he leave it so open for a sequel???
I loved this book! I found the descriptive style of writing to be very cinematic. Having said that, I think this book would make a terrible movie! Epic in proportions, any movie would either be extremely long (in order to cover everything in the book), or would be so hacked to bits in order to get it within a practical time-frame, that it would be ruined. So, the reader is left to "see" the scenes on the theater screen of their mind.
I find many epics to be painfully tedious, but this was written in such an easy and amusing style, that it was a joy to read. It was certainly not dumbed-down, however.
"Middlesex: A Novel" is a large book so be prepared for some extra time in reading it. There are some good subplots to go along with the main theme in this book. Well written, the author does a good job of keeping your attention, at least as best as possible considering the size of the book. I would recommend.
I picked this book by accident, mistaking the title for another book, but what a wonderful mistake. Although, I can't say I would have ever chosen to read about an hemaphrodite, I truly enjoyed the writing in this book. The phrasing and words used by the writer created wonderful pictures. My favorite part was the grandparents story.
I went on to read The Virgin Suicides by the same author. Both books were enjoyable but Middlesex beats hands down.
This book is on my top-ten-of-all-time list! The story sweeps through three generations of the Stephanides family, chasing an unseen gene mutation that was destined to land right in the lap of Calliope Stephanides, literally. The story is written around actual historical occurrences and tells of each generation living through its own oppression, from the burning of Smyrna to the Detroit race riots of l967, to Calliope's own secret. From one generation to the next forbidden love endures, but not without consequences. This is a significant and incredible novel and I hated to see the last page.
I wasn't in love with this book, but it was worth buying. The concept was interesting, but as others have said, too much unecessary information. I did get tired of reading it about 3/4 of the way through, and skimmed much of the last of the book. All in all entertaining for me, glad I read it.
This book is on my top-ten-of-all-time list! The story sweeps through three generations of the Stephanides family, chasing an unseen gene mutation that was destined to land right in the lap of Calliope Stephanides, literally. The story is written around actual historical occurrences and tells of each generation living through its own oppression, from the burning of Smyrna to the Detroit race riots of l967, to Calliope's own secret. From one generation to the next forbidden love endures, but not without consequences. This is a significant and incredible novel and I hated to see the last page.
I was just telling my SIL that this book is amazing. It reads so much like a memoir that I had to keep checking the word "fiction" on the back cover. It is the story of a girl who finds out when she is 14 that she is really a boy. It explains the reason behind her plight and how she finally finds out why she is so different that other girls her age. I love a long book so it wasn't too long or drawn out for me at all.
Highly recommended. Oprah picked a good one this time for sure.
All of the reviews are correct. I was disappointed with the book but had high hopes because I like the Virgin Suicides, Jeffery Eugenides' first book. I was about 300 pages into the book (nearly 600 pages) and had to put it down...and I never put down a book due to my 'completion junkie' syndrome. This one, though, I had to quit and just deal with the guilt. It had potential with the story line being so unique, but the follow-through was highly disappointing.
I really wanted to like this book, but honestly, now that I've finally finished it, I feel somewhat cheated. This book is really tough to get through - so much Greek history and history of Detroit. I kept waiting for something to happen, knowing that so many loved this book, but nothing ever happened until the final quarter of the book, and even then, I wasn't thrilled.
Way too long, way to heavy. Why did this win a Pulitzer?
I enjoyed this book and have suggested it to several friends who have equally enjoyed the book. It is a long story and at one point in the middle I thought the story was stretched a bit too long, but I read through it and ended up being even more engaged and captivated. I could not put the book down after that. It is a fun fictional read, but does require the reader to have an open and flexible mind.
Many times while I was reading "Middlesex" I was reminded of the movie "Forrest Gump", I think because "Middlesex" is as much a history of America (and Detroit in particular) as it is about the characters who inhabit its pages. Much attention is given to the experience of being an immigrant in America as well.
I feel the same way about "Middlesex" as I feel about "Forrest Gump". I respect the story, and I found it to be interesting, engaging and entertaining enough while I was reading it. But something about the story, and the characters in particular, failed to find a permanent place in my heart. I can't ever picture myself rereading "Middlesex", nor was I dying to stay up all night reading it. The book's narrator, Callie/Cal, is very close to my age. I was amused when Callie mentions her Dr. Pepper-flavored Lip Smackers and her Love's Baby Soft powder. (That sure brings back memories!) And yet...I could never really picture Callie using these things. Something about her was not fully-fleshed and she never seemed like a real person to me. In fact, none of the characters did. Much of the time, they seemed more like archetypes than real people, and while that wouldn't bother me in some settings, it just didn't work for me here.
A very unique book but an incredible read. A bit slow at times and sometimes you don't understand how what you're reading has relivance to the complete story, but then you figure out that it has a lot to do with why the main character is the way she is. Definately worth it!
I can hardly remember starting a book and not finishing it. Well, there was this one. It went on and on from civil war in Greece to the start of the auto industry in Detroit to black market liquor over the Canadian border. Sheesh. Uninviting characters and a sloggy story lost me about half way through... and that was a chore getting that far. Oprah selection? Why?
Whatever you have heard about this book, I encourage you to experience it for yourself. It is beautifully written and engaging. I read this book years ago yet I can still summon the author's voice in my mind when I think about the characters. I read a lot, so many stories come and go and stay gone, but this one has stayed with me.
Simply one of the best novels I've ever read. Eugenides weaves a magical tale about Calliope/Cal Stephanides' life and family tree, spanning the 20th century - from Greece to Detroit. I could not tear myself away from this book - it was THAT interesting and well written. To those who say "too much backstory", I argue that the backstory was the best component of this book! Absolutely a keeper for me.
This book is on my top 10 all time best book list, out of hundreds. For those who are bored with the history leading up to the main story, you've missed the point. This book is about developing characters and background that impact the main character. This story was not just a story of a hermaphrodite, it is a epic of the impact of immigration, cultures colliding, family tradition, and so much more. For those looking for an entertaining story, this is not the book, but for those who enjoy a book that takes its time in developing the characters and scenes and lets you into the mind of the characters, it is enjoyable.
This book was amazing. The story is about so much more than a person who is intersex. It is about family, history, the lies we tell ourselves and others, the struggles we must go through to become who we are, and the small choices we make that affect others long after we are gone. The subtle complexity of this novel is astounding. Go into it knowing that you are in for much more than meets the eye and you will be greatly rewarded.
Like someone else said, I'm more surprised that this isn't a real memoir than that it isn't. It is incredibly well written; one of the best books I've read to date. It is certainly not a fast read by any means, but I found myself not wanting to put it down nonetheless. There are some sensitive issues that the more conservative reader might find uncomfortable, but it was written with great tact and believability. I highly recommend this book! I'm so glad I found it and someone had it to send to me!
A wonderful look at Greek Americans, starting with immigrants in the early 1900s and the family and life they make four generations forward. It is told from the view point of a hermaphrodite, the product of a mutaully consensual incestual relationship that went back 2 or 3 generations (brother-sister). This book takes on several things - like how immigrants were treated in America, discrimination issues, incest, bootlegging, hermaphrodites, porn and prostitution, and family ties. Excellent read.
The dynamics in this family kept me reading well into the nights. The deterioration of their community left me deeply saddened. The strength of the character development helped me realize that quality writing is the reason I enjoy reading. Thank you Mr. Eugenides for this tale of family love, family deception, denial, and ultimate ability to carry on. Well Done.
I picked up this book and put it down a couple times before finally buying. I didn't know how I would feel about the content. Now that I have read it. I am glad I did. I found this book to be amazing. Mr. Eugenides is a fantastic story teller. I found humor in the characters. I know or have known the people he as described in this book. I whole heartedly recommend this book.
A marvelous book. At times it is a little disconcerting the way the story travels back and forth in time. This book is set in Detroit - and having grown up in the area it was extremely interesting to me to read about things that were happening that I was too small to really take notice of.
This book begins as a fascinating read and slowly but surely degrades. It has too much plot, too many little sub-stories that are beside the point. The detail is revealing and fascinating at first, but becomes redundant and boring. The author veers away from the main character too much, which is too bad, because s/he is really the person the reader is interested in.
I managed to muddle my way through it, but I don't recommend it!
This is the story of an immigrant Greek family over three generations with our narrator as the end product. It is important to understand that going into the book. I came for the spectacle of hermaphroditism only to realize that Cal is a person with a history and not a spectacle. He just so happens to have the added difficulty of intersex as part of that history.
Once I stopped expecting the book to be about a hermaphrodite, I really got a chance to enjoy the story. I appreciate that it is written almost as if it were a personal diary so that the narrator shared his story instead of just telling it. Eugenides' references to historical events and Americana was wonderful and even created a sense of nostalgia.
The author's style of writing is reminiscent of a more polished and accomplished me. (Which is me just stroking my own ego because all I'm really saying is that his writing is a bit pedestrian.) The development of the story is slow (Cal isn't even born until around page 400), and I expected to read more about the narrator's psychology and emotion behind his transition.
I wouldn't read this book again but I am grateful of the experience.
I wasn't at all sure I'd like this book, but I loved it. It fascinates on several levels: as a multi-generational family history, as a psychological study, a coming-of-age tale, and as a first-person narrative from someone given a cruel genetic burden. Well-written and utterly captivating; I recommend it highly.
A most excellent book! It is the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize and very well deserved. I read all 527 pages in 3-4 days which is good for me. It is the story of Callie who was born and raised as a girl, but little did she and her family know she was actually born part male and female due a genetic disorder brought on many years of her Greek family's incest. I don't know why incest keeps coming up in books I read. I really don't intend for that to happen. Haha!
The story isn't just about Callie, but also about the history of her family in Greece. Years of them marrying cousins and eventually SIBLINGS (her grandparents were brother and sister) Calllie was the "lucky" one in the family to receive both recessive genes of the disorder. It isn't until puberty that Callie starts to realize she's not a normal girl. She had always felt something was different with her, but being so young she could never understand. When an accident happens and Callie goes to the hospital and doctors discover she's not exactly normal "down there", a doctor in genetic sexual disorders begins a study on her. When Callie sneaks and reads his report on her, she realizes she doesn't want to be a SHE anymore but a HE. Callie then decides to run away at the age of 15 or 16 and start living as a boy named Cal. Cal travels to California and ends up joining a freak show where he/she remains for a few years until Cal's brother comes and gets him to bring him back for their father's funeral.
There is sooooo much more to this book than I can even explain. The story sounds ridiculous but the writing is so good. It doesen't just say what happens, it explains why it happened and how the family go to where they are today.
My only complaint with the story is after coming to know Callie, I really don't think she would run away they way she did. She just up and left her family right then and there after reading the report from the doctor. Being an only child of a very loving, sheltering family, I don't think she would have it in her to really just say "ok I'm a boy now and I'm going to California". But....it made the ending interesting so I'll accept it I guess.
This was a beautifully written book contrasting a 1920's Greek immigrant family's journey to America with a 1970's granddaughter's attempt at assimilation into what she thinks of as her proper place sexually in her family and in society. This story handled a very difficult subject with great sensitivity and insight.
I loved this book. I loved how it was written over multi-generations. Seeing the family develop from one generation to the next and choices affecting each other was amazing. It reminded me of East of Eden in the sense of following a family in their journey.
Although it took me a while to read this book, I enjoyed the story from both a literary and scientific perspective. I have heard complaints about the backstory elements, the character development of Cal's grandparents and parents, but I found it fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the section of the book about Cal's life, though, and his coming of age and transformation, and the blurred lines between female and male. I do wish there was more of that part of the story - I understand that the book was structured around the development and occurence of Cal's two births, but I wanted to know more about how his life unfolded after his second. All in all, a really good read.
I had it on my bookshelf for a while before I read it. It was so well written and was full of interesting information about things I didn't know much about: hermaphrodism and the lives of Greek immigrants. I highly recommend it.
What a great read! So wonderfully written that it was hard to set it down and I found myself sneaking in time to read when I should've been doing other things. Edgy topics presented in such a loving and honest way.
I just finished this and thought it was BRILLIANT. It sat in the bookcase for months and months while I picked out other novels all around it until finally I thought, ok, let's give Middlesex a go. Why had I ignored it for so long? I was afraid it would be dull (and it isn't) or dreadfully depressing (and it is not). Instead it's an amazing and passionate epic that weaves past and present seamlessly, that made me laugh out loud and made me weep, too, because yes, it does have its tragic moments. Jeffrey Eugenides swept me off my feet with his loud, courageous, passionate, lonesome, loyal, and (sometimes hysterically) funny characters, and for that I will be eternally grateful to him. If Middlesex is sitting gathering dust on your bookshelf I suggest you not waste any more time. Just read it.
This is a really interesting read.. the narrator tells the story of his family and the journey of a gene through the generations that eventually resulted in his unique ambiguous gender. I really liked the use of foreshadowing and the author's witty writing style.
This book was really hard to get into and the end just kind of seemed to leave you wondering what happens next. Cal finally learns the truth about why he is the way he is but that's where it ends. It was a looong read for me because it was hard to get into.
I thought this would potentially be a sordid, unpleasant read. But it was really interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the family history in the story that brings us up to the present day narrator. It covered a lot of ground, but smoothly. Also, he uses a lot of color and metaphor, but it's engaging as opposed to burdensome.
Wonderful book! I wasn't really sure what to expect when I requested it, but I quickly fell in love with Eugenides' style of writing. He accurately captures the growing pains of a young girl. He obviously has done alot of research - history, cultural, biology - to create a very believable novel. Very engaging storytelling. Loved it, would highly recommend it.
I loved this book! Mr Eugenides explores a topic rarely covered in fiction...and in doing so, makes it relative, honest, touching, and open. I have not yet read his other book, The Virgin Suicides, but it's now on my Wish List. I at once wanted to be part of this family; the grandparents, the mother and father, the aunt, the daughter even. Mr. Eugenides seamed together the Greek culture, family tradition, Detroit, war, and the racial conflict of the 60' and 70's, along with the sexual and emotional exploration of a young girl beautifully. In the end I wanted everything to work well for Cal...I grew to love him too. And that was magic.
This is a great book. It is one of those books that begins in the present and then goes way back in history to explain the situation. If you don't like that kind of thing, you may have a hard time reading it. It does skip around a little in time. The story was fascinating to me, and well written. I didn't find it to be a page-turner until I was about 3/4 of the way through. but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it.
I'd recommend this book. It was fascinating, at times disturbing, and yet thoroughly enjoyable. While it was long, every piece of the story was connected together, with an over ridding theme of how our families can shape us in ways we may or may not perceive. I personally liked the beginning of the book best, but I also enjoy historical fiction. Being from Michigan, I really enjoyed the settings of Detroit, Grosse Pointe, and Petoskey - all very accurate. Toward the end of the book, the exploration of gender issues and how we define male/female was thought provoking.
SLOW in the beginning. Very detailed back story parts of which I felt were tedious and not entirely needed for the story. Once the narrative shifts to Calliope's life the story is much better and wonderfully written.
This book is wonderfully well written. It is part historical immigration love story, part coming of age story. The narrator, although fictional, easily fooled me to the point I sat down and looked several things up because it was just so convincing.
To be honest, there are a few irritating things. Some characters have no name and instead are referred to only be nicknames ("Object" and "Chapter Eleven") and then other characters just exist within the story without any explanation.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It was touching and poignant and can't truly be appreciated in pieces but as a whole work.
I thought that this book was one of the best I have read in the past 10 years. You really felt like you knew the characters. Some of the subject material that would normaly make you shutter, turned out to be the most fastinating. I did not want this book to end, but unlike some of the other people who read this book I was not disapointed with the ending. I think that "Cal" could not wirte any more because he has to live his life to come out with the rest of the story...
I went into this thinking I ought to read it because it had won the Pulitzer Prize, even though the idea of reading the life story of a hermaphrodite didn't appeal to me. I was pleasantly surprised! I will be lending this around to friends for sure! What I got and didn't expect was a sweeping family history, set in Greece and Detroit from WW2 to the present. It was reminiscent of Herman Wouk's fantastic family saga "Inside Outside." Yes, the lead character is a hermaphrodite, but you find yourself sucked into the back story and enjoying the characters of her family also. Terrifically well-written, funny, fascinating, and heartbreaking at once. They say that there is a huge difference between liking a novel and enjoying it. I expected to like this novel because of the tremendous writing but not particularly enjoy the story. To my surprise and delight, it delivered both.
I have to be honest, after reading The Virgin Suicides, I was very excited to read Middlesex. And then I started reading it. The book was bland, so bland I had trouble finishing it. This to date is the only book that has taken me over a year to read. I was so disappointed in this book and think that Jeffrey Eugenides has more talent than this.
Maybe I am not sofisticated enough to truly appreciate a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the story felt a little too long without having much of a point to me. But I did enjoy how the author weaves pieces of American history through the Stephanides' family history. It was a pleasurable read, but not the kind of book that I had a hard time putting down.
A Pulitzer-prize winning novel - really good.
It's an extremely realistic, insightful novel about a hermaphrodite. It starts out with the narrator's grandparents emigrating to the US from Greece after the Turkish invasion, and has a lot to do with The Immigrant Experience (reminding me at times of 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay'), and continues on through the narrators birth, being raised as a normal girl, falling in love with 'her' best friend, realizing at puberty that something was not right - being taken to an expert, threatened with a mutilating operation, running away, working in a freak show in San Francisco, and eventually finding a successful life and hope for a real relationship in Berlin...
Those details don't really give anything away, because the book is all about the experience and the emotions, about family, tragedy, relationships, revelations and hope. Highly recommended.
I could not put this book down!!! It was very interesting and the subject matter was unique. It is a story about a family and their deep dark secret. This secret comes to light and exposes their shame. Great book!!!
This is a very odd book, but worth reading. It is described by the New York Times Book Review as "a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love." It is touching, sometimes funny, very involving, and just a tad bizarre. It received terrific reviews and was deemed the Amazon.com "Best Book of 2002."
This beautifully written book is more than a story of a hermaphrodite. It is a rich family history interwoven with the history of Greek immigrants, as well as a history of life in the Detroit area from the early auto industry through the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. I liked all the characters from the grandparents Desdemona and Lefty through the narrator, Cal/Callie, though I still wish Cal had explained where the older brother Chapter 11 got his name!
Our book club just finished Middlesex, and it generated a colorful, lively conversation. The story, itself, go mixed reviews--some loved it; some couldn't get through it. The biggest complaint seemed to be the length and intricate detail.
Personally, I never would have picked this one up in a bookstore based on the description. However, I couldn't put it down once I started reading it.
A terrific book -- I can well understand how it won a Pulitzer! The historical settings in Greece and the U.S. are fascinating and taught me much I had not previously known, but the marvelous characterizations are the highlight of the novel. My highest recommendation.
I faithfully read (almost) every word of this book for a book club meeting and wished fervently that it had been 150 pages shorter. I think this was a book that I was supposed to like because it received so much acclaim when it was released and even won the Pulitzer Prize(!), but evidently this is why I'm not on the committee that picks the Prize winners. I would probably pick all espionage and spy novels instead of books that are actually "good."
I recommend skipping this book for the following reasons:
1. It was WAY too long. If you don't know the premise of this book, it is about an intersexed (this is the PC term for hermaphrodite, thank you, Sister) individual's journey to self-discovery, but the book begins with a long and drawn out history of Cal's ancestors and the alleged reason why Cal was born intersexed. This history took up the first 3/4 of the book and included some really ridiculous descriptions that went on for pages and pages. Books like this generally rub me the wrong way See The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, I have a vivid imagination and prefer to exercise it over allowing the author to corral me into one stagnant image.
Check out my full review at http://abookofadifferentcolor.blogspot.com
Middlesex paints wonderful word pictures; at least that is what a friend told me when she lent me the book. It's true. Jeffrey Eugenides writing style is exquisite, revealing a panorama of generations belonging to the Greek family Stephanides. This novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003 and it's easy to see why.
The protagonist is also the narrator, Cal, a man who spent the first 14 years of his life being raised as a female. Cal, a hermaphrodite, must learn to balance his maleness and his femaleness, but explains how he ended up being the recipient of both sex organs. He begins his story by telling about his grandparents from Greece, his own parents in America, and then his own story.
I was SO engrossed by this book! The narrative was very easy to read even as he jumped between generations. Although it is a long book I hated reaching the end. I sure hope "they" don't ruin the story by making a movie of it...
A very good novel, capturing the life of a Greek transvestite. The main character unravels a family history more dysfunctional than she could have realized, as she tries to cope with her body's constant changes.
This book was chosen by my bookclub and while I did finish it, I did not enjoy it. The author missed the mark on this book by spending too much time jumping between generations and not enough time making me actually care about the main character (which is also the narrator). I had heard so much about this book and was very disappointed with the book on so many levels.
A family saga, of love, hurt, laughter and lies. The story of a bit of altered DNA that travels through a Greek family from the old country to Detroit and forces choices a 15 year old shouldn't have to make. Great read by the author of "Virgin Suicides" another great read.
An interesting look at the life of a hermaphrodite. Issues which I never thought of come up as you read. The hero/heroine ultimately changes genders and adjusts to life away from his/her family and friends before he is reconciled to the adult world as a man. The topic was handled with grace and insight by the author.
Narrated by a talented reader: I wish all CDs were this good! Captures the spirit of the Greek community in its many-faceted characters. If you were discouraged by the print edition as I was, you could listen to this instead and hear it brought to life. It's somewhat like the Victorian novels which were written to be read aloud. I can't recommend it enough!
Middlesex is an engaging story told by Calliope Stephanides, a third generation Greek-American. Calliope's story begins long before her birth, in a small town in Turkey. Our omniscient narrator tells her story and that of her family in such an engaging way, I found it incredibly difficult to stay away from Middlesex for long. It was a truly enjoyable read, filled with excellent narration and memorable characters.
Middlesex deals with the life story of Cal (born Calliope), a hermaphrodite child raised as a girl, who later in life questions the sexual identity assigned and decides to explore the masculine aspects of his personality. Although Cal's physical structure is different from the majority of people, the struggle to define sexuality and gender roles is something many people go through. Cal's story is not sensational or unrealistic. It describes the experiences of an immigrant family with skeletons in the closet, and how one's history and past help define a person. It's written by the same author who wrote "The Virgin Suicides" and flows the same. Once you pick it up, it's impossible to put down.
My absolute favorite book. I read this one over months in small installments because I never wanted it to end. The romance between Lefty and Desdemona, the Stephanides family matriarch and patriarch was especially gripping--even though you know ahead of time that the choice they're making will hurt the family, you can't help but be sympathetic. Recommended to anyone who loves a juicy but well-written family saga. I can't wait for Eugenides' next book.
No way to say it but bluntly: this book was an incredible disappointment. Boring beyond belief, pretentiously over-written, and with the main question (why Callie ultimately chose to become Cal -- no spoilers here, it's in the opening line) either entirely unanswered or, to follow the closest thing to an implication, just plain homophobia. Key plot points were also completely unbelievable -- and I'm not talking about those having to do with the hermaphroditism (nor anything possibly definable as magical realism). I forced myself to read each page, with "It has to get good at some point!" ringing in my head -- and when it was finally done I just wanted those two weeks back. It had a lot of potential, but other than a slightly amusing or mildly insightful passage here and there, it just didn't deliver.
This book was a well-written, ambitious combination of history, Greek mythology, medical terminology, family relationships, racial struggles, gender confusion and complex emotion.
I flew through the 500+ pages of this novel, even though I tend to be a slow, careful reader. This author certainly gives credit to the careful readers as it weaves its way through the story line, jumping back and fourth from multiple time periods in the past to present day.
Every time I got to the point where I was ready to put the book down, the author pulled me right back in with a shocking new plot line.
I highly recommend this book. Its not quite like anything Ive read before.
Really captivating from the start. Lots of vibrant imagery, made me feel really involved in this story. Toward the end, it dwinldled a bit for me, as I became really attached to a character that played a lesser and lesser role. (Cal's grandmother.) And sad that Callie, whom we come to know throughout the course of events, becomes Cal rather quickly... almost not leaving enough of a chance to get to know the new version of the narrator as well as I had hoped.
A coming of age novel with a real twist. The cover quote from the New York Times sums it up well: "Part Tristram Shandy, part Ishmael, part Holden Caulfield, Cal is a wonderfully engaging narrator...A deeply affecting portrait of one family's tumultuous engagement with the American twentieth century." The novel won the Pulitzer Prize.
Nice read, follows 3 generations of the Greek Stephanides family and how inter-marriage can lead to gene mutations in the offspring. Very interesting and pertinent to the times, as there are far more hermaphrodites now than anyone realizes.
For the most part, the book is well written, but I felt it was full of information that was completely unnecessary. Very long winded, provides more of a history of a culture than a story about a persons personal journey.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Middlesex is a well written epic following the life of a remakably honest and real character, especially considering how surreal her condition. Eugenides does an excellent job of setting the story through time and major historical events.
A bit slow to start, this Pullitzer Prize-winning novel really grabbed me as the narrator's story got underway. A compelling tale of the American 20th century, the immigrant experience, and the meaning of gender. Well-worth reading.
This novel, published in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. It's a powerful book that makes one think about life, one's heritage, adapting to life and change. A saga about an immigrating family, the book is narrated by Cal who begins the tale with his grandparents and their life in a small town in Greece where it is common for cousins to marry. When the Turks invade many of the Greeks leave the country including the grandparents who move to Detroit. The story spins out from that point as the family grows. I recommend this one to anyone who wants a serious, mind-boggling experience.
MIDDLESEX was published in 2002 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2003. Its characters and events are loosely based on aspects of Eugenides' life and observations of his Greek heritage. Primarily a coming-of-age story and family saga, the novel chronicles the effect of a mutated gene on three generations of a Greek family, causing momentous changes in the protagonist's life. The protagonist of the story, Cal or Callie Stephanides, was born with female characteristics but later finds out he is intersexual (hermaphrodite) with predominant XY male chromosomes.
I enjoyed this novel immensely. Eugenides expertly tells the story of three generations of the Stephanides family who travel from a small village in Asia Minor to prohibition-era Detroit during the booming days of the auto industry. It's the story of Cal's grandparents who manage to escape the burning city of Smyna at the end of the Greco-Turkish War (1919â1922) and make it to Detroit and of them keeping a secret through the generations that ultimately leads to Cal's condition which is manifested primarily in inbred, isolated population groups. It is also the story of Cal's parents who move from the race-riot torn city of Detroit to the suburbs of Grosse Pointe, Michigan and to the upper middle class. But most of all, it's the story of Cal/Callie which runs the gamut from joyful to tearful and everything in between.
I liked the characters in this novel very much and could empathize with them all. Cal's sexual awakening and discovery of his intersexual state was really a strong point of the novel. How the doctor's wanted to solve his problem was probably a common practice at the time and how Cal deals with it was quite drastic but how it turned out was pleasing overall. I've had this book on my shelves for several years and glad I finally got around to reading it. Very high overall recommendation.
Not recommended if you enjoy page-turners. Ramble, ramble, ramble. This hermaphrodite coming-of-age story was way too long and boring with the incestuous heritage recounting. I've renamed it MIDDLEYAWN. Enough said.
For anyone that is going through a difficult time, whether it is with your sexuality or your appearance, or if you are just curious about the subject of hermaphroditism, this is the book to read. It tells the tale from infant to adult from the perspective of a hermaphrodite. I found this story incredibly interesting and was hooked right away, though at times it did tend to feel long. I would still recommend this book!
Part myth, part coming-of-age, part social commentary, this story of a teen coming to grips with a more-than-normally confused heritage, thanks to a couple of errant chromosomes and a slight bending of veracity by her grandparents.
If you see the photo on the back of the book, you will realize that the author did not have any of the experiences that happened to this main character; which is unbelievable because the story of Cal is so intricate and nuanced. This author captures the human condition and nature so completely. The history leading up to the actual "main event" was so compelling that the reader forgets the provocative nature of the subject. This novel will add to your experience and understanding of people who are different from you.
This was a truly terrific book - beautifully-written, wonderful use of language, and a page-turner to boot. Even though it is quite long, I tore through it quickly and was sad when it ended. The subject matter, which revolves around hermaphroditism, may be too much for some to take, but honestly, it was almost secondary to the rest of the narrative, which was about the journey of a family that immigrates from Greece. Highly recommended.
This is one of my favorite books of all times! The story is beautifully written and takes you into the minds of three generation of greek immingrants. It is poignant, funny, and sad all at the same time. A must read.
Loved, loved, loved this book. The style of writing was so interesting by avoiding story telling on a superficial level and takes you to a higher level of reading. THe topic covers multi-generational history and issues, some you are acquainted with and other topics which you may have never thought about. It is not a regurgitation of a common theme of life angst. Can't wait to read his latest work.
I didn't think it worth the Pulitzer. The second half fell flat for me once the grandmother left the story. However, it's obvious Eugenides is a skillful writer and he describes and dissects his characters with a deft pen, and I would recommend it on that basis alone. There were moments of great pathos and of great humor, but the story for me ended halfway through the book.
This book seemed really really long. It was interesting, and the POV was enlightening. I think though the story could have been told in well in less words. It was 530 pages and took forever to read. There were parts that I skimmed through, it seemed like there was a lot of filler information that didn't really enhance the story. (I agree with the reviewer who said there was too much information/backstory on the grandparents). At times I was confused about who Cal/Calliope's parents were. It seemed at one point it was Milton and Tessie, and then another point her father was Zizmo.
Aside from being a little too long, I enjoyed the ending. Probably not one I will read again, but it wasn't bad.
An epic Greek family saga spanning generations! Hermaphrodites! Incest! Love! The rise and fall of family fortunes! Although this book is one part sensationalist family drama it is redeemed from pure guilty pleasure status by Eugenides' excellent writing and attention to detail in exploring the experience of an intersex person. I found it totally absorbing, only occasionally dragging, minimally overdone, and often quite poignant.
Loved this book. Dives into the immigrant experience, the downfall of detroit, the complexities of family dynamics, love, and over course, life as a hermaphrodite. Eugenides skillfully weaves it all together.
This novel, published in 2002, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. It's a powerful book that makes one think about life, one's heritage, adapting to life and change. A saga about an immigrating family, the book is narrated by Cal who begins the tale with his grandparents and their life in a small town in Greece. When the Turks invade many of the Greeks leave the country including the grandparents who move to Detroit. The story spins out from that point as the family grows. I recommend this one to anyone who wants a serious, mind-boggling experience.
With high expectations, I began reading this book, only to be somewhat disappointed. With the high acclaim for Middlesex, I guess I expected something more than the author delivered. It is an entertaining novel with the uniqueness of the main character being a hermaphrodite. This believable story is told in first person, from Callie/Cal's perspective. It deals with growing up different, awakening sexuality and social rejection and acceptance. Middlesex is an enjoyable, quick read. I liked the book but felt that it only skimmed the surface of a issue and I was left desiring more.
This was a facinating tale, taking me through a well-written romp. Never, was I bored with the story. This is one novel where the first-person narrative works well and provides us with an intimate view of his life growing up in Detrout as a girl and later as a man.
Although I am not completely at the end, I am LOVING this book. The story is fascinating, and the author's telling of it is in a completely absorbing style. Unless I hate the ending (something I do not expect, but one never knows!), I am enthusiastically giving this FIVE stars!
This is the most over wrought, over reaching, self indulgent novel I have ever read. It is the type of book that fancies itself to be the next great classic when it is merely the type of novel read by pseudo-intellectuals that want every one to know how literary they fancy themselves. I thought it could have been great; the story is actual quite interesting, but the self professed Homeric tendencies were a MAJOR turn off. Next time I want to feel virtuous and literary, I will read an actual classic rather than bothering with another novel like this.
This is probably the best book that I have read this year, perhaps in several years. It chronicles the development of a family simultaneously with Cal. It pulls you along, at first, like a car wreck ahead of you on the highway might, waiting for Cal to arrive (in more ways than one). There is no disappointment with the culmination of this tightly told story and the last 100 pages pull you along effortlessly and leave you wishing there were 100 more.
You'll build your biceps carrying this one around, but the story is engaging from start to finish. An in-depth look at a family over 3 decades and 2 continents. Nearly our whole book club finished it -- and that's saying something!
What a fascinating story. Amazingly simple to follow despite complex structure and timelines. A good read for a Detroiter especially. Eugenides detail and descptions are unparalleled. I am ready to read everything he has written.
I have to say this is different from anything I've ever read. This book is about an hemaphrodite and about his/her ancestors. It was good and I was able to finish it but I can't say that it is one of my favorites.
This book is difficult to get into and I wish that there would have been more time spent on his life as an adult instead of the history of his family. I understand the importance of explaining how he came about, I just felt the book ended too quickly once we got into real time.
good book, but long read. Well worth it. 5 stars. The story of a hermaphrodite who was born with both genatalia. Raised as a girl , as the male genatalia went unnoticed at birth. She was in a bad car wreck as a teen , when they discovered the male genatalia. She made a very tough decision to relive her life as a man. She had never menstruated or had female breasts. And these facts contributed to her decision to become a male. Very good.
I encourage you to persist through the slower parts of this book. The author gets a little wordy in many parts of the book, but the story comes through. It's worth reading, even if it is not my favorite book ever.
My family is from Michigan, although I was raised in the American South after my parents divorced. My dad worked for Ford for 35 years, an incredible fact in itself given the present state of the American auto industry. From this book, I learned a great deal about the Detroit that came before the riots in 1969, and was reminded of the posh suburbia I lived in as a small child. Like the narrator, I left that suburbia behind and moved far away, and I became a much different person than the person I would have become had I continued living in the 'burbs of Detroit and going to a nice private school. Moving from public school to public school once I left Michigan, I learned quickly to adapt my behavior just as the narrator learned to do the same as life went on.
This book was not at all what I expected. It is a wonderful history of an immigrant family woven together beautifully with the current time and challenges. All the characters were fascinating and well developed.
Middlesex is a sprawling family saga. To treat it as solely the bildungsroman of the male psuedohermaphrodite narrator would lead to disappointment. Cal Stephanides takes about 200 pages to trace three generations of his Greek-American family. From the grandparents' escape from a tiny village in Asia Minor to Detroit to Cal's prepubescent existence as Calliope and subsequent transformation, sometimes Eugenides waxes too poetic about biology. He dangles bits of present Cal's life, a lonesome middle-aged Foreign Service Officer, throughout the long narration, but I actually enjoyed the "backstory" more than Cal's transformation which was a bit rushed and not satisfyingly explanatory. Nonetheless, I think Eugenides mostly fulfilled the potential of this story about assimilation, transformation, and gender.
Calliope (Cal) Stephanides tells the story of her life and how the choices of her grandparents and parents made her what she is an hermaphrodite.
Before escaping from Smyrna, Greece, when it was attacked by the Turks, Callies grandparents were married a union that would not have taken place if not for the chaos caused by the Turkish invasion. They came to Detroit, Michigan, because they had a cousin living there.
They struggled to make ends meet through the Roaring 20s, Prohibition and raise two children. Their daughter marries a Greek Orthodox priest and their son marries their cousins daughter.
Callie attends a private all girls school, and in junior high develops two loves acting and an attraction to her best friend, the object. What doesnt develop is her body. When she is in an accident and taken to a hospital and is seen by doctor who has never seen her before, the reason for her bodys failure to develop is diagnosed.
The story is told by a 40-something Cal who is now living in Berlin and working for the US Foreign Service. It tells the story chronologically interspersed with stories of Cals life in Berlin.
I liked the story and felt it was well-written, but it took a long time to get to the point where Callie finds out she is an hermaphrodite. Eugenides doesnt put a lot into the story after that the story is almost 2/3 done at this point. I dont know how Cal found out what the specific genetic defect is and that he could be so perfectly sure where in his family lineage the defect lodged itself in the family DNA.
If I hadn't been stuck in the car for 9 hours without nothing else to listen to, I would have given up on this in the first 25 pages. What absolute boring crap! I made it to page 113 before I stopped it and just listened to the wind blowing through the car. I didn't know whether to scream in frustration or throw the cassettes out the window.
Middlesex is supposed to be about an hermaphrodite but before you can get to his/her story, you first have to get through his/her grandparents incestuous beginnings, the war between the Turks and the Greeks, the ocean voyage to America (with the grandparents having sex all the time), the lies to get through Ellis Island, the train ride from NYC to Detroit, the God awful boring description of Lefty's job at the Ford Auto plant (which went into such minute detail that I could probably build a car myself!). Or what about the people from Ford that actually came to Lefty's house and inspected everything including the linens, the kitchen garbage, what was being cooked for dinner (you know garlic gives you indigestion!), the toilets and even how Lefty brushed his teeth. Even if this absurdity truly happened, was it really necessary for the author to go into so much detail or that the reader know this much about Lefty's job? When he/she started describing the grandmothers pregnancy week by week, I ripped the cassette right out of the player and chucked it into the back of my suv. Maybe some day I'll actually find it again so I can throw it in the garbage...exactly where it belongs.
This is probably the worst book I've read in longer than I can recall. I've had this book on my shelf for a while and now I know why it took my so long to pick it up. Geez, how can anyone stand to read this crap? Give me a good ole mystery or a romance any day.
Loved this book! Went into it with trepidation, but it won me over. I thought the last quarter a little weak, but I was willing to forgive the author based on everything that came before and after. Don't be scared off by the gender/sexual issues - I found it to be about the 'immigrant experience' more than anything.
Not a borough in England, but a sex somewhere between male and female. If you can read with a slight Greek accent, all the intricacies of this tale will come clearer ;). The story follows Calliope Stephanides' grandparents who leave Smyrna as the Turkish invasion arrives. Their tale alone, the beginning of it all, would be a book in itself. But the complete story, sometimes serious, sometimes cheeky, is a splendid tale. Characters who rise off the pages to fill the stage with more than their genetic history, told as if from the knowing viewpoint of those inherited genes. This feast of a novel continues the family's history expanding through succesive generations and accompanying events in American history. It is no suprise that Eugnides has won a number of awards for his lyrical writing, including the Pulitzer. I tried to think of subject tags that I could apply to this book without making it common-place. I couldn't; it's more.
A wonderfully written, engaging, witty, fictional biography of a truly fascinating family history. The author takes the reader on a journey in time, from a tiny little village in Asia Minor, to the shores of America, through the underground lives of Prohibition Detroit and the glory days of motor city, to modern day. Captivating, fascinating, engaging and honest. Great read!
The book opens with the protagonist's birth in January of 1960, which happened to when I was born too, so Cal's descriptions of society in his/her teen years hit right home with me. A wonderfully described family history from Greece to Detroit with accurately described observations of the times. An excellent read.
Back cover: 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 they move 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.
This is a true page turner. 529 pages and I would have loved another 529. The characters are fleshed out and you grow to truly care about them all. Finding one's identity is hard enough for the average person, Calliope is far from average.
Middlesex is one of those must read books, but you may not enjoy it while you are doing it. It is a strange story with an even stranger topic, but it so well-written and so challenging that you must finish it.
This book was really hard for me to get into. After I got into it the story got better, but I was still confused a lot during the reading. I believe the author could have taken it to a different place.
I had the impresion that this book was written with the intention of being a screenplay for a movie and not a novel. The reason I think that is becasue I felt the writing becomes an afterthought of the scene. The author makes strange/ sometimes impossible choices of perspective and lighting and even describes what he is seeing and from what angle or describing a move on a dolly or a crane rather than let the story flow. I think in this sense the writing style lacks luster and I didn't care for it. Having said that, I enjoyed the third part of the book and it engaged me to finish it. The first two parts are painfully slow, filled with a long list of episodes and details of the family history that at the end of the story didn't have much to do with the main chararacter'r ordeal. However, I did find the theme interesting enough, I just wished someone other than this author had written it.
Boy, this was not the easiest book to read. No problem with the subject matter, but sometimes it just seemed to drag along. I found Cal's family's stories more intriguing than her own. Luckily, there were a lot of family stories.
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.
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 -