Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

4.5 stars4.5/5

Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex, totally lives up to it’s Pullitzer Prize-winning credentials.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

Bloomsbury, 2003 edition (paperback), 544 pages - book group.

I won’t attempt a synopsis as I feel that there are too many strands for me to adequately describe without giving the whole plot away or stripping it back so much that it doesn’t sound compelling. Instead, I will just give you my glowing opinion!

Middlesex is epic in scope, spanning over 80 years and two continents, yet is a fluid read, enjoyable and entertaining read. The narrative of the novel’s protagonist, Calliope (Cal) is absorbing – personal and authentic, and I felt as if I was listening intently to someone recounting their own extraordinary family history.

The way that Eugenides conveys the locations in the novel and the sense of each decade was for me one of the most enjoyable aspects of the book (although there are many things to love about Middlesex). I could really imagine the industrial grit and dirt of Detroit, visualise it as a cultural melting-pot, and sense change bubbling under the surface.

I was also enchanted by the way that the different characters were shaped and defined over time, and became engrossed in the love stories that formed the backbone of the plot. Eugenides discusses biology in a beautiful romantic way, using eloquent language to create a sense of magic. In the following snippet, Calliope considers the changing and different bodies of her schoolmates:

“The surface of the sea is a mirror, reflecting divergent evolutionary paths. Up above, the creatures of air; down below, those of water. One planet, containing two worlds. My classmates were as unastonished by their extravagant traits as a blowfish is by it’s quills. They seemed to be a different species.

A sense of fate (genetic destiny) makes Middlesex feel like a Homeric account – poetic and mythical. Eugenides combines funny, tender and devastatingly tragic moments in perfect equlibrium. Middlesex delighted me from beginning to end.

Have you read Middlesex or other novels by Jeffrey Eugenides?

14 responses to “Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

  1. It was an amazing read, wasn’t it? I like the way you describe it as Homeric – a nod to Eugenides’ roots:)

  2. This is my absolute favorite book of all time! Glad you loved it too, though I would’ve rated it 10 out of 10 ;)

  3. I wish Eugenides would publish another novel. I loved both this book as well as The Virgin Suicides (and the film adaption is just as good!)

  4. I really enjoyed Middlesex – also impressed my Dad with my knowledge of Detroit (all from this book and Top Gear)!

  5. Glad you enjoyed it… definitely one of my faves from the past 10 years.

  6. Though I know Eugenides’ novels are supposed to be contested, just about every opinion I’ve heard on Middlesex ranks it extremely highly. I should very much like to read it, especially based on the description of it being “poetic and mythical”.

    • Well, yes it’s poetic and mythical but in a kind of unusual way if that makes any sense! Quite unlike anything I’ve read before…

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