Flashback Friday: Middlesex

Enough of Throw Back Thursdays. How about strolling through memory lane in Reviewland? Here is a good one originally posted July 18, 2009.

Considering I started blogging late 2007, it should be interesting to see what I can find in the vaults. It’s pretty interesting to dig up these reviews. Gives me a chance to see if I feel the same way of if a book needs a re-read and a re-think.

 

middlesex Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Fiction, 529 pages
Picador (USA) Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2003

FTC Disclosure: Purchased (by me)

 

Middlesex is the story of Calliope Helen Stephanides, later known as Cal, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family. Calliope is not like other girls. As she writes:

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.

This is so much more than a coming-of-age novel. Hard enough for most kids to deal with growing up as it is, but (and this isn’t a spoiler, trust me) to approach this milestone as a hermaphrodite, brings a whole new dynamic to the experience.

Arrayed in their regiments, my genes carry out their orders. All except two, a pair of miscreants – or revolutionaries, depending on your view – hiding out on chromosome number 5. Together, they siphon off an enzyme, which stops the production of a certain hormone, which complicates my life.

Eugenides narrative surpasses any expectations I had regarding how he would handle such a subject. I constantly had to stop, and think, how he was able to so deftly write in a voice I firmly believed was Cal’s. The author disappears completely, as he should, and leaves the reader feeling they are reading a memoir. I love the objectiveness of Cal’s tone. Far enough away that most of the emotion has softened, yet not so much that the reader ever feels held at a distance. On the contrary, the honesty and humor of the narrator is what kept me turning pages.

How did we get used to things? What happened to our memories? Did Calliope have to die in order to make room for Cal? To all these questions I ffer the same truism: it’s amazing what you can get used to.

Calliope does not die because she is an integral part of Cal. This story is how she, and he, come to terms with this reality. The only reason I did not read it in one sitting is that this is a book that deserves one’s full attention. However, I could not restrain myself as I got closer to the end. In fact, I stayed up to four in the morning finishing the book as I simply could not put it down. Obviously, this novel is highly recommended. Not knowing I would like it so much I bought a very, well-loved used copy. I definitely will be on the lookout for a newer version, if not just going out and buying one off the shelf. Which I should do as this a book that deserves a forever home. Like mine. JCa

 

 

Jeffrey Eugenides first novel The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993. In 2003, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and France’s Prix Medicis.

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