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Middlesex Paperback – Sep 23 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada (Sept. 23 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676975658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676975659
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 544 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.

Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:

Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." … I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ... I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever.

When you get to the end of this splendorous book, when you suddenly realize that after hundreds of pages you have only a few more left to turn over, you'll experience a quick pang of regret knowing that your time with Cal is coming to a close, and you may even resist finishing it--putting it aside for an hour or two, or maybe overnight--just so that this wondrous, magical novel might never end. --Brad Thomas Parsons --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

As the Age of the Genome begins to dawn, we will, perhaps, expect our fictional protagonists to know as much about the chemical details of their ancestry as Victorian heroes knew about their estates. If so, Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides) is ahead of the game. His beautifully written novel begins: "Specialized readers may have come across me in Dr. Peter Luce's study, 'Gender Identity in 5-Alpha-Reductase Pseudohermaphrodites.' " The "me" of that sentence, "Cal" Stephanides, narrates his story of sexual shifts with exemplary tact, beginning with his immigrant grandparents, Desdemona and Lefty. On board the ship taking them from war-torn Turkey to America, they married-but they were brother and sister. Eugenides spends the book's first half recreating, with a fine-grained density, the Detroit of the 1920s and '30s where the immigrants settled: Ford car factories and the tiny, incipient sect of Black Muslims. Then comes Cal's story, which is necessarily interwoven with his parents' upward social trajectory. Milton, his father, takes an insurance windfall and parlays it into a fast-food hotdog empire. Meanwhile, Tessie, his wife, gives birth to a son and then a daughter-or at least, what seems to be a female baby. Genetics meets medical incompetence meets history, and Callie is left to think of her "crocus" as simply unusually long-until she reaches the age of 14. Eugenides, like Rick Moody, has an extraordinary sensitivity to the mores of our leafier suburbs, and Cal's gender confusion is blended with the story of her first love, Milton's growing political resentments and the general shedding of ethnic habits. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about this book is Eugenides's ability to feel his way into the girl, Callie, and the man, Cal. It's difficult to imagine any serious male writer of earlier eras so effortlessly transcending the stereotypes of gender. This is one determinedly literary novel that should also appeal to a large, general audience.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm always searching for a great book to read, and frankly this one was way down my list due to the subject matter, which I didn't think would interest me. How wrong I was! Eugenides' writing sings! I laughed out loud at one point, and I felt the character's pain in others. His masterful ability to weave this story across three generations of an eccentric Greek family makes for fast and enjoyable reading. Several times he put into words concepts and feelings that are not usually conveyed in print. A wonderful book that I will recommend whole-heartedly to my bibliophile friends. Usually I don't bother to review a book, but in this case I think that Eugenides should be encouraged to write another book as quickly as possible! This is one writer that I'll be on the look out for in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. De Rocher on Aug. 30 2007
Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure if I would like this book initially. A friend had recommended Middlesex to me a couple of years ago and I had made a mental note but other books kept bumping this one down the list. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. The story spans 3 generations and ultimately captures most of the major themes of life. Our protagonist Callie/Cal is immediately interesting to the reader as she narates her family history whilst foreshadowing her interesting and somewhat tragic gender identity. My only criticism is that the Father Mike scene at the end of the novel didn't seem to fit cleanly with the flow of the story at that point. I did laugh out loud while reading this scene however. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Beijde on Oct. 11 2007
Format: Paperback
This is one of my all time favourite novels and it actually made me start a reading "salon" group in 2003. And I hate reading groups! I was just so excited to share this book with as many people as possible. Middlesex is a multi-layered, sprawling cosmos of a story. Eugenides is as good at tiny details, like the subtle social cues in a group of suburban teenage girls, as he is at conveying the complexity of civil war in Asia Minor and race riots in 1960's Detroit. It is sexy, thought-provoking and wildly original. You can luxuriate in the rich detail or tear through it in the bath while your toes go pruney, because it is such a fantastic page-turner. It's one of those books that leaves you bereft when you get to the last page because you just want it to go on and on. I read this when it came out and for the next year I gave it to just about everyone I knew as a birthday present.

Middlesex is the perfect place to be on a blustery fall afternoon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Shaw on Nov. 19 2008
Format: Paperback
Although Eugenides is an extremely talented descriptive writer, he needs work on plot structure. The first three quarters of the book seemed to be building up to a satisfying climax, with many interesting family dynamics at work. Then, the last quarter of the book flops. Eugenides completely sidesteps what could have been a very interesting conclusion, giving the reader insight into Cal's life as an adult, Milton's difficulty accepting the new Cal, and the family secrets finally coming to light. Instead, Eugenides seemed to run out of steam, and the last quarter of the book is insipidly inconsistent with the rest of the story. I hate to see talented writers blow what could have been a great finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nath Drouin on July 5 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First of all, I blame M. Eugenides for me being so tired. I just couldn't put this book down, going to bed to late for a mother of young children. Callie/cal is the best character I've ever had the pleasure to read. This book has everything you would want in a book. From being well written to making you laugh. Travelling trou wars and living as a person of another ethicity. Eugenides takes you tru 3 amazing generations of lovable people, making you question if something like that could happen to you and your family. You will not be able to put this book down. Middlesex is light yet hard to take at some periods of time. Sexy and blend, tearfull and wishfull. Enjoy the ride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kona TOP 500 REVIEWER on Dec 29 2009
Format: Paperback
Cal Stephanides traces his family history back to 1922, when his grandparents were young and living in Asia Minor. Their love was forbidden but undeniable and they married, keeping a terrible secret. They immigrated to America, had children who in turn had children, and one of them was Cal who, thanks to his grandparents, was born with a unique anatomy.

As the narrator, Cal paints a vivid and fascinating picture of his family, much like someone slowly turning the pages of a scrapbook, describing each photo in detail, interrupting his history occasionally to bring us up to date on his current situation. His family experienced dramatic highs (the Turkish slaughter of Greeks, the Detroit riots) as well as ordinary days, and he describes them all with humor and matter-of-fact acceptance.

This is a very unusual and exceptionally well-written story. I did object to the narrator being able to recount conversations and actions he couldn't possibly have known about and think the story should have been written in the third person, but I found it riveting and was sorry when it ended. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Can of peas on Oct. 27 2007
Format: Paperback
The beginning of this book will grab you: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."

so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the finest first novels of recent memory.

Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin.

Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:

Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." ... I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ... I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.
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