Monday, February 1, 2010

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides ('Kirkus' Style Review)

Eugenides, Jeffrey

Review Date: FEBRUARY 01, 2010
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 529
Price (paperback): $13.95
Publication Date: 09/16/2003
ISBN: 978-0312422158
Classification: NOVEL

Jeffery Eugenides, critically acclaimed author of The Virgin Suicides, expertly weaves a modern story of epic proportions and creates a fascinatingly complex yet relatable character who transcends societal norms.

Cal, originally named Calliope by his parents, is an adult male who was once assumed to be a female at birth and raised as such by his Greek-American family. Cal spends the first half of the novel narrating the momentous story of his grandparents’ incestuous relationship and subsequent escape from war-torn Greece, as well as his parents’ early lives in the turbulent era of 1960’s Detroit. He then looks back on his former life as a young girl and the gender transition he made in his teens, which he believes is a direct result of a gene which existed within his grandparents and which, through a series of fateful events, was passed on to him. What ensues is a strange and psychologically complicated tale which Eugenides manages to successfully tie in with Greek history and myth. Cal is essentially a sexual outcast—he defies chemical, biological, sexual, and psychological norms. Cal’s gender confusion makes for a truly thought-provoking, stereotype-defying read, and his journey of self-discovery begs the reader to question the way that society conditions us to view gender classification. Perhaps the most significant achievement of this novel is the author’s ability to use a nearly genderless voice to express the same character in both male and female roles. Eugenides transcends the stereotypes of gender by enabling the reader to accept the narrator as both male and female.
Not intended for a narrow-minded audience, and not a light read by any means, this novel is provocative, intelligent, and humorous, featuring a narrator deserving of a place among the classic characters of literature. Highly recommended.


  1. Crystal, again you've given me a book to put on my personal reading list. Thanks for your eclectic tastes and excellent synopsis.

  2. Very Kirkus and I now too want to read this book.