is a significantly more ambitious and much odder novel than Jeffrey Eugenides' resonant debut, The Virgin Suicides
), which was a bittersweet paean to adolescent love. This is a sprawling family saga, bursting with life, which spans three generations and crosses several continents. At its core, however, is another unorthodox but exquisite coming-of-age story.
The book's wily narrator and central character, Calliope Stephanides (named after the muse of epic poetry) is a hermaphrodite raised as a girl who comes to realise she is happier as a boy and is now living as a man in contemporary Berlin. Cal's tale begins, appropriately enough, in Greece (or more precisely Asia Minor)--an Aegean Strasbourg whose sovereignty is claimed by Greece and Turkey. In 1922 brother and sister Lefty and Desdemona Stephanides escaped their war-torn homeland and arrived, as man and wife, in Detroit, America. It is this coupling that ultimately begets their grandchild Calliope and her ambiguous sexuality, as she, or rather by then he, sanguinely notes:
Some people inherit houses; others painting or highly insured violin bows. Still others get Japanese tansu or a famous name. I got a recessive gene on fifth chromosome and some very rare family jewels indeed.
As Cal recounts the experiences of the Stephanides clan in their new land--from the Depression to Nixon--he unfurls his own symbiotic odyssey to a new sex. Cal's narrative voice is arch, humorous and self aware, continually drawing attention to its authorial sleights of hand, but never exasperating. This is big, brainy novel--The Oracle of Delphi puts in an unlikely appearance in the middle of a teenage tryst--but one full of compassion. Eugenides' astonishingly rich story persistently engages the heart as well as the mind. --Travis Elborough
"'Middlesex' seems set to be at least as fashionable a read as '(Virgin) Suicides'." -- Style, The Times, 1st October 2002
"Full of wit and weird happenings, this book just gets better with every chapter." -- Sainsbury's Magazine, October 2002
"Middlesex" is both life-changing and life-enhancing. It is also very funny." -- Liz Calder, Publishing Director, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
"Nine years in the writing and worth the wait." -- Elle, October 2002
"Redolent of 'Midnight's Children-era' Rushdie, 'Middlesex' confirms Eugenides as an American writer of tremendous talent" -- The Face, September 2002
"The quirky characters, ingenious plot, and Eugenides' exemplary writing style make this book delightfully original." -- The Historical Novels Review, August 2002
"This is a truly extraordinary novel based around one brilliantly drawn character." -- Red, October 2002
"This is a truly original and compelling novel, by turns sad, funny and moving." -- Daily Mail, 11th October 2002
"a warm and beautifully written novel that illuminates the part of the human soul that even biology cannot reach." -- Sunday Times, October 6th 2002
"exuberant, ambitious, deeply compassionate and wildly funny." -- GQ, October 2002
"it's a towering achievement, ... He has emerged as the great American writer that many of us suspected him of being." -- LA Sunday Times Book Review, September 1st 2002
"novels as good as this aren't published very often." -- Time Out, October 2nd 2002
"one of the best American novels in years. ... a book of wonders and surprises." -- Books Quarterly, September 2002