Middlesex is an epic, sweeping family saga covering three generations of the Stephanides’ family. It is, quite simply, an endearing sensory treasure.
It is these rich, sumptuous descriptions that immediately transport us to the small Greek village clutching the mountain, to the trans-Atlantic crossing undertaken by two sibling lovers, to the fiery war torn Detroit race riots, to the Stephanides parlour reeking of men, emotion and volatility. We become immersed in the story and the characters, and by doing so we come to understand the total loss and bewilderment that Cal feels as he slowly comes to the realisation that he is “different”.
Cal is a warm, engaging open narrator. He is omniscient, and this again provides Eugenides with an opportunity to showcase his talent. “So I raise one fist (male typically) and begin to beat on the walls of my eggshell until it cracks. Then, slippery as a yolk, I dive headfirst into the world” narrates Cal of his conception. Brilliant!
And even though Cal is aware that his hermaphroditism stems from his grandparents incestuous relationship, there is no bitterness or recrimination. He accepts his family foibles and shortcomings just as he comes to accept his “differences”. Indeed it is this feeling that permeates the book: Eugenides has been able to deftly handle the incest and experimental sex scenes; in his hands they are written with tenderness and love.
I simply did not want this tale to end. Over the course of 400 pages I had come to know and love the Stephanides. I was looking forward to taking the journey with Cal – to find out how she traversed from a confused and frightened 14 year old girl to a tentatively confident 41 year old male. And this is where the story disappoints. We lose the beauty and magic that was evident to this point. We lose the warmth and candour. Instead it feels we are rushed through a somewhat sordid ending.
Despite this Middlesex is a wonderful reading experience – thoroughly engrossing and highly recommended.
(Four and a half stars)
- Hardcover: 544 pages
- Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux; Student. edition (4 September 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0374199698
- ISBN-13: 978-0374199692
- Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.9 x 23.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 839 g
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews