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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathless with wonder
It is difficult to praise this book too much. Its ambition is obvious from its length and its multiple themes, the Greek diaspora, the American Dream and its racial divide, hermaphroditism, the sexual revolution, evolutionary biology....However, what I would not have thought possible was that this ambition be realised with such deftness of touch. There is not a dud...
Published on 15 Oct. 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Was disappointed
I heard so many good things about this book and love what I read in the summary... Calliope discovers at 14 years old that she's a hermaphrodite.
What was disappointing for me was the lack of plot. I wanted to know more about this character's emotions and life, whereas it seems like the main character is telling us the story of her family... which is so slow to...
Published 13 months ago by Laura82


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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathless with wonder, 15 Oct. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Middlesex (Hardcover)
It is difficult to praise this book too much. Its ambition is obvious from its length and its multiple themes, the Greek diaspora, the American Dream and its racial divide, hermaphroditism, the sexual revolution, evolutionary biology....However, what I would not have thought possible was that this ambition be realised with such deftness of touch. There is not a dud paragraph in its 500-odd pages, and I imagine that my problem with the odd sentence was more to do with my lack of familiarity with the American idiom than with any failing on the part of the author. But these hiccups, rather than discouraging me, only made me more eager to to see what followed. At the end I was breathless with wonder. Would I read a better novel? Do we have to wait 9 years for his next?
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62 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic saga., 23 Mar. 2004
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
This is one of those few novels that had me enchanted from the first page, and I didn't put it down untill the last.
I initially bought it on a whim, as it was on offer and the write ups were good for it. However it has cemented it's place as one of my favourite books to be released in recent times.
Middlesex is basically an epic family saga, covering three generations of the Greek Stephanides family as they emigrate from their homeland to America. Historically accurate as the story unfolds around the social backgrounds of the changing eras the reader is consumed in the realism of the novel - this could easily be a real Greek-American family. The greek connection is kept firmly within the book as the narrartor, Cal, recounts lesser known Greek myths in connection with her own story. This leads on to an unusual device by Eugenides to seperate the story further from typical family saga's - Cal is a hermaphrodite.
This condition does not override the novel, in fact it takes a backseat for the vast majority of it until the end. However, the research which Eugenides has done into this and the other subjects touched by the book is clearly astounding as his accuracy in his portrayal is astonishing.
The character development is superb - each character over the three generations develops a unique personality encouraging and coaxing readers to fall in love with them. You will. The emotions of each character seems to jump off the page and take a place in your heart.
Far from just being based around the family house the novel is also packed with its share of action - riots & a car chase are amongst these.
Eugenides description of this epic novel is beautifully vivid and weaves an enchanting image of the lives and inhabitats of his characters. It is cinematic in everything but format.
I've been struggling to think of a negative to say about the book before I finish my review but there really aren't any. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moments of storytelling magic, 11 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
This is the very rich tale of Calliope/Cal Stephanides a child born with both male and female genitalia and the struggle for acceptance, identity and understanding that it brings. It is interestingly written in the way that we go back two generations to see the chain of events that lead to the gene which causes the condition.

As others have said, this is two stories in one. One is the family back story, and the second part is Cal`s story. The first fairly lengthy part tells her grandparents story from Smyra to the USA. In the USA they have a child, Cal's father, who subsequently marries Cal's mother and they start a family - thus Cal is born. The second part is narrated by Cal and charts the effects of puberty. The struggles that time of life brings are amplified by the urges Cal has to deny and hide - urges Cal doesn't understand - through to diagnosis; Cal's search for identity; struggle to make decisions about the future, and present life.

The grandparent's story for me is some of the best in the book. It's well told, I enjoyed the history lesson that accompanied it, and thought it went well with the brilliant opening. However, after this point it starts to get a bit boring: there are family businesses, extended family sub-plots, and cultural contexts to wade through - some of which I feel didn't add much and could have been significantly edited.

The story picks up again after Cal is born and begins give a personal account of life and the struggles endured. I think there was so much unrealised potential in this part that it's a real shame. Like others I was left wanting more and thinking that the balance between the past and present was sorely misjudged. Cal's struggle and unique viewpoint was what I wanted to read when I picked this up and I found myself short changed. There were great moments of insight to be had, but so much more that was missed.

It is a well written and entertaining read that delivers a good story, but fell short of being a great story. There were moments of insight, but what could have been a fascinating character study was in the end skimmed over. I did care for Cal, but my empathy was never fully engaged.

I think most people would enjoy it purely as an entertaining story, and Euginides is a gifted storyteller, the premise is fascinating after all and a unique story does unfold. However, most are likely to be a bit disappointed it doesn't delve a little deeper into the mind of its central character.

I have given 4 stars because I did enjoy it for what it was, and would recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and original, 1 Oct. 2007
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
When I read books of this length - 500+ pages - I expect that there'll be bits that I find boring. To Eugenides immense credit, I never once found Middlesex anything other than entertaining.

Eugenides's writing is erudite, fluid and very pleasurable to read. He can get away with all sorts of unbelievable conceits because his characters are strong enough and his narrative voice sufficiently original to hold the reader suspended in his imaginary world.

As with all the best books, the plot is incidental or irrelevant, and it is the power of Eugenides's writing holds the fascination - "le plaisir du texte".

The book turnsslightly erratic towards the end, the narrative pace accelerating too much, so that the humorous detail and lazy indulgence of the opening and middle sections is sacrificed for a credible ending. To be fair, this is a common problem with picaresque novels, and the author can be forgiven a little shabbiness for the book's originality and audacity.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A superb read, 16 Jan. 2006
By 
R. Ahmed "Raz" (Avalon) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
Yes, I agree with the other reviews: this is a superb book. It has many laudable features: the prose is clean and crisp; some of the early stories are absolutely captivating; and the narrator is just a darling. Having said so much, I must also admit that the second half of the novel is quite disappointing. The story seems to meander into a series of implausible unsubstantiated episodes (a la Paul Auster), and I don’t think that Eugenides is able to quite capture, with any real sense of emotional satisfaction, the turmoil that Calliope would no doubt be under in having to navigate through the miasma of ambiguous sexuality. But, overall, this is still a remarkable book, and one that I think will endure, if only for the portrayal Calliope’s grandparents’ romance. Please read it, I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greek Bellow, 5 May 2012
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This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
Pulitzer prize winning Middlesex catapults from the Eugenides family history, and spins through the air. Middlesex is the family home and the sexual identity of the narrator, a young man (but not completely) named Cal Stephanides - and tells a complex, rich family history with a touch of Bellow and Roth, and not a small hint of originality.

It is hard to get into the details of the story without giving the whole game away, but suffice it to say that the book spans 80 years and three generations of Stephanides - how the family left Turkey, came to America, belatedly became successful despite the odds, and lost almost everything - including many (mostly male) lives. It is a fabulous epic of identity, original sin, treachery, lust and so much more.

Eugenides writes like a wicked angel, and his agenda seems to be to modernize the family history by taking up very extreme approaches to character and situation. The pages fly by - for a so called 'literary' novel, this compels you to read like a thriller. That is the craft of it - but, underneath, the serious themes are ingrained in every page.

Unfortunately, it takes Eugenides 8-10 years to finish one of these (he's done 3 so far) and he is 52. So that means, we only have about 3 more, and that's if he stays productive to 82. Of course, he will put out some short stories as well, and they are great too, but novels like this, well, it would be nice if he wrote a few more of this quality.

Read it, recommend it and look forward to the next one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic, in the truest sense of the word, 17 Feb. 2005
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
When I came across this novel in a bookshop in late 2003, I had heard very little about and it so I was able to read it without any preconceived notions of what it would be like. The mysterious initial sentence of the book (as mentioned in other reviews), combined with the fact that this won the Pulitzer in 2003 compelled me to buy it though, and I am exceptionally glad that I did so.
I don't want to give away the plot too much (that would ruin the experience for readers as they proceed through the novel themselves) but I will say that Eugenides has a true gift for writing and his craftwork makes reading a joy. After reading this novel, you feel that you have done something good for your brain, as well as feeling indebted to Eugenides for having produced something of this brilliance.
Although all of the events take place in the C20th onwards, there are many allusions to Greek classical works and mythology (as befits a novel where the main characters are of Greek descent) so that the novel can be read on many levels. The reader also feels drawn to the characters who are well-rounded with both strengths and weaknesses and the author is to be congratulated for dealing with his subject matter with such humanity. This book is by turns funny, sad, historical, political, epic and a study of "otherness" with themes that readers the world over will be able to identify with.
I am not someone who gushes over every book I read or who peppers my analyses of books with abundant superlatives, but Middlesex deserves the praise it has received. At 500+ pages some may be deterred by the length but stick with it: this novel never sags and the rewards will be worth it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read, 20 Jun. 2010
By 
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
The reason why I have given this book five stars is very simple. It is among the best books I have ever read. What exactly do I mean by this? Firstly, the way/style it is written in; I loved it. It was descriptive but not overly so; it was readable and reminded me of Nabokov in a way. I loved the way it started, introducing the topic and getting you interested and then 'pulling back' and going into the past where the story begins. It is a family saga, an epic journey into the past, as well as about the migration of a family to America, trying to live a new life, given the chance for a fresh start. However, they carry a mutation in their very genes which will have consequences in the life of the narrator. I know that others have described the themes of this book more eloquently, and I will not attempt to copy them. I am just someone who enjoys reading and I want to recommend this book to all of you (ok, maybe not ALL of you. I am sure there will be people who will be 'outraged/disgusted' by the book's topic of hermaphroditism, but, now that I think of it, its actually you who should be reading this book...So basically I'll just say that it would not be suitable for young children, in the same way that Lolita wouldn't be)...! Take a chance on this book, you will be more than pleasantly surprised!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you read one book this autumn..., 1 Oct. 2002
This review is from: Middlesex (Hardcover)
...make it Middlesex. A truly compelling novel about incest, Greek history, the American Dream and hermaphroditism, the story is enchanting from the very first page. Intellectual, but not intimidating, funny, but never punny, this is a book as deep as it is long. The author, Jeffrey Eugenides, writes in such a guileless, uncynical and effortless way that you fall in love with his characters and find yourself understanding and accepting their sometimes morally dubious decisions.
In the central figure of Calliope Stephanides he has created a character as iconic as Holden Caulfield - a character who could equally become a byword for teenage alienation (although obviously a slightly more tongue-twisting one). The story Cal tells is as memorable as Salinger's opus and will stay with you well past the final page. This book is an almost guaranteed classic, and as such well worth buying in hardback and treating very carefully...
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 31 Aug. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Middlesex (Paperback)
This is a fabulous book: delightfully written, captivating, rich in humour and character. The author has a real mastery of voice; he draws the reader in with his elegant, involving storytelling. The book frequently teeters on the brink of the absurd (its basic premiss - the life story of an intersex person, and an account of how he/she turned out that way) - is quite bizarre and off-the-wall, yet Eugenides handles his material both with delicacy and with great wit. The result is a book that does justice to what it has been like to be an American during the past forty years; it also does for the Greco-American experience what the fiction of Saul Bellow has done done for the Jewish-American world. Combines the best of Bellow and Philip Roth with a tenderness you might associate with Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. A triumph, in short.
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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (Paperback - 3 May 2003)
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