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Middlesex by [Eugenides, Jeffrey]
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Middlesex Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews

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Amazon.co.uk Review

Middlesex is a significantly more ambitious and much odder novel than Jeffrey Eugenides' resonant debut, The Virgin Suicides (on DVD), 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

Amazon Review

Middlesex is a significantly more ambitious and much odder novel than Jeffrey Eugenides' resonant debut, The Virgin Suicides (on DVD), 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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2060 KB
  • Print Length: 539 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate (15 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BVT5WKM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,962 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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By A Customer on 15 Oct. 2002
Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: Paperback
When I heard about the subject matter of the novel "Middlesex", I have to admit that it sounded weird to me and the subject matter alone almost put me off from reading the book.

I soon realized that I was uncomfortable as the dickens about reading a book about an hermaphrodite. Questioning myself even further, I asked myself how a 529 page book about an hermaphrodite won the Pulitzer Prize and had been chosen by Oprah for her book club. But now that I have read the book, I have discovered that this work is an accurate study of genetics in story book form AND an epic of Greek proportions and grandeur set not only in ancient Greece, Turkey, but in Detroit no less!

Detroit now has a favorite son in Jeffrey Eugenides.

The book is a great read, a classic with beautiful poetic verse. It is funny, poignant, touching, compassionate, educational and imaginative. It stretches your understanding of subjects that maybe you were at first not very comfortable hearing about; let alone read. The book is laid out as a modern Greek epic in the style of the ancient epics reminiscent of the Iliad and the Odyssey. You will learn more than you ever thought you would about ancient Greek mythology.

Along the way you will meet the endearing Stephanides clan and follow their tragic/comedic path from Turkey/Greece to America (settling in of all places Detroit). This family chronicle will introduce you to their history, their genealogy, their genetic make-up, their family ties, their fears of immigration and their assimilation into the American way of life. You will meet Desdemona, Lefty, Father Mike, Zoe, Sourmelina, Milton, Tessie, Chapter Eleven and finally Calliope Helen Stephanides.
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