Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides: A Review

Posted 18 July, 2007 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 13 Comments


Title: Middlesex
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Pages: 529
Date Finished: July 18, 2007
Rating: 4.25/5

So, I’m thinking that maybe I read this book at the wrong time. It had every reason to be fabulous in my book, and I would certainly rank it in the top 5 for this year, but I think that if I had sat down with this book a few weeks ago (when I had copious reading time), I would have ranked it a little higher–but I must be true.

The story is about Calliope/Cal who announces at the beginning of the book that she was born twice, first as a girl and second as a boy. Thus ensues the saga of the Stephanides family over three generations beginning with Desdemona and Lefty in Greece all the way to Calliope’s transformation at the age of 14. Cal is a wonderful storyteller–amusing, engaging, endearing, he really wants his story to be told. Thus comes the problem I had with the book–its too freaking long! Again, I’m probably saying this because of my reading time (or lack thereof due to househunting and various travels across Texas–which are not about to end unfortunately).

With that said, this is a great book and I think that it has a little of something in it for everyone. I’m not sure yet if I would recommend it to my mom (for some reason that’s how I usually base my recommendations) mainly because of the sexual nature of the novel. I think, though, that it’s hard not to take an interest in this matter. Some of the questions that arise are incredibly interesting–and will continue to be hot topics I’m sure. Whether or not gender is inherited or learned, what place to transgendered or transsexual individuals have within society, and on and on. I appreciated the perspective that Eugenides provided, and I will be looking to read more of his work in the future.

13 Responses to “Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides: A Review”

  1. 4.25 is still not at all a bad rating, though! I can understand wishing it was shorter if you have little time. I read it at a good time, during Summer break, so if anything I wished it was longer still!

    One of the things I love about Jeffrey Eugenides is how he writes about delicate things like sexuality with such elegance and grace. What he writes is never shocking or tasteless, but always very vulnerable and human.

  2. Yes, I agree that his writing is very graceful. He wrote with such conviction that I really believed he was Calli–it was hard for me once the switch was made to Cal to think about him as a boy.

    Have you read Virgin Suicides? I saw the movie years ago, but I’ve always wondered about the book.

  3. cj

    I think I’ve just bumped this one up on my list. Not that I have any sort of organized list. But, it’s part of my Book Awards list and I’ve been pondering what to read next. You both have helped me decide. Thanks.


  4. Trish —

    I can definitely understand what you mean about this book seeming long at points, but I have to agree with Nymeth that Eugenides is deals with a topic that can be so touchy with immense delicacy.

    I think one reason why it can seem tough to get through is that it really does get the reader thinking — about issues like coming to terms with one’s true identity.

  5. I have read the Virgin Suicides, yes. It’s another favourite of mine. If you liked the movie, then I think you’ll like the book too – it’s one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen. Sofia Coppola captured the essence of the book perfectly.

    The writing is absolutely beautiful, and there’s a little difference in the ending that makes the whole thing even more tragic. I really recommend it.

  6. ditto what nymeth said. i read the book and loved it. what can i say? i like dark books but his writing is beautiful and elegant and it hits you at the core.

  7. Thanks for visiting my site and commenting! Middlesex is my book club’s choice for the coming month, and I’ve just started it. I have very mixed feelings about it going into it, so I’m hoping I’m going to come around as most everyone seems to with this book! Thanks for a great review.

  8. CJ – I hope you like it. Its definitely my kind of reading!

    Alyson – you made some good points. The subject matter *is* delicate, and I think that Eugenides handled everything with ease and eloquence.

    Nymeth – thanks for the recommendation! I really liked the movie, but thankfully its been so long since I’ve seen it that I don’t think it would taint my reading of the book (as sometimes reading books after watching movies does).

    Soleil – Thanks for popping by! His writing really captivated me and I will certainly be looking for more. I like dark things as well…

    Kate/Susan – My suggestion would be to just keep reading. I started it around Christmas time, but had to put it down after the first chapter because I couldn’t give it enough attention. The second time I picked it up (last month), I was able to give it more attention but not enough–but I still really enjoyed the book. Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Mrs. Savoie

    I just finished this for the Book Awards Challenge. I’m not sure how I felt about the ending. I’m wondering if I wasn’t in the right mood for it.

  10. Bookgal – Yes, I think that was my thing as well–wrong mood. I’ll be interested in what you have to say about the book…

  11. There is no clear reason why he refers to his brother as “chapter eleven” but it probably has to do with bankruptcy and his problems with money. I had the same question, though!!