Book Review – Middlesex

by Jeffery Eugenides

Started: 24th October 2014

Finished: 1st November 2014

This is one of the longer novels on my uni reading list, so I must admit I had been putting it off a bit for that reason. However the time had finally come for me to start it to study it. I hadn’t heard much about the book but I had heard about the author and his other works. They’re said to be controversial and wonderfully written, so I went in with high expectations. Especially as quite a few people in my class rave about it.

Middlesex is a story spanning three generations. Cal, our narrator, reveals in the first chapter that before they reached sixteen they had been through a lot where their sex and gender were concerned. From there they go back to tell their grandparents story, to explain how it all started and why Cal ended up with a problem with their chromosomes. We hear about the story of Desdemona and Lefty, forced to leave their home due to conflict; Tessie and Milton (our narrators parents) and finally about the narrator – or at least their first fourteen years.

As the story covers three generations of one family, there are quite a lot of ‘main’ characters and I must admit I wasn’t very taken by many of them. The only one I really felt a connection with was Calliope (or ‘Cal’) even though we don’t hear a great deal about them until the end. Despite it not being the most conventional relationship, I did quite like Desdemona and Lefty – I was really rooting for them at the time of their story. However as the novel continued I started to lose interest in them and Desdemona’s attitude did start to bother me (although there is a rather touching scene at the end of the novel where I felt she redeemed herself). Tessie and Milton were the same, there were times within their own story that I did like them and appreciate them as characters, however when we get to Callie’s story my opinion of them starts to change. As for the minor characters I really liked Cal’s brother ‘Chapter Eleven’. He just remained constant throughout the novel and I just really liked his attitude and behaviour towards Cal (for the most part).

The novel is split into four books, to split up the stories. Despite it being written in four books, each story linked nicely with the last. Each of the stories had something interesting about them, however I was hoping that the novel would focus on Cal more so than the whole family. I understand that Cal was starting at the very beginning of their origin but I wasn’t really bothered to hear it in the amount of detail that was given. Like I said, each story did have something interesting about them but the rest of the time it just didn’t keep my attention. Well, until we finally heard Callie’s story. Whether it was in the page length or not, it did feel like the shortest instalment out of all of them. Which did disappoint me. For me, the book became the most exciting and interesting towards the end – however it ended quite abruptly. Although the narrator is 41 at the time of telling the story, it finishes when they’re sixteen. I could have happily read more of Cal’s own story, but it was cut short in a jarring way.

I can’t deny that the book was well written with a good deal of depth to the characters. Eugenides tackles a really difficult subject and handles it really well. However what I enjoyed the most wasn’t really the focus of the novel – at least not in the way that I wanted. It is a good read, just not what I expected and a sudden ending when I was really getting invested in it. However I think I’ll read Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides in the future as I did enjoy his writing style.

Rating: 3/5

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