**spoiler alert** When I was in the middle of this book I couldn't understand why it had such mediocre ratings. I thought it was really nicely written**spoiler alert** When I was in the middle of this book I couldn't understand why it had such mediocre ratings. I thought it was really nicely written. I liked Doctor Iannis's writing his history of cephalonia that never remains unbiased from his own feelings. I loved Carlo and his heroism and tragedy. I loved Corelli and his morning opera. And I finally understood the only scene from the movie that I actually remember - Weber and the firing squad. But then from that point on I discovered the reason for the ratings. Almost from that scene on it was an awful book. Truly Horrible ending. We have to endure 50 years of pelagias life whilst she believes Corelli is dead, and never moves on. And then he comes back, after they've both wasted half their lives apart, and admits that he came back and spied on her every year, had thought she was married, but never actually bothered to ask.
It was so disappointing. Yes it was miserable, but it wasn't even a miserable you could appreciate, like a good angst. It was just truly a waste. A terrible waste of such a good story, such a good buildup. Very disappointing.
The book should have ended with the german occupation, and then maybe a short epilogue with a happily ever after where they don't waste 50 years of their lives.
I enjoyed the first 2/3rds very much. But I would not recommend it to anyone ever. Ever....more
The blurb has the right idea, in my opinion, take the opening line!:
I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of J
The blurb has the right idea, in my opinion, take the opening line!:
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 1974.
There are no real spoilers here. Cal was born intersex, but raised as a girl, and later on transitioned to male. But as with most things, its the journey thats important here.
Cal is introduced to us as a middle-aged Greek-American male, living currently in germany. And the book every now and then shows us this 'present' pov. But in order to really tell his story Cal sends us right back into the past, beginning with his grandparents before they made the journey to America. Progressing through his parents story, up to his birth. This is a fairly impressive piece of story telling. And while at first I was a bit confused, believing I was getting a book about an intersex person in America, and instead finding myself reading a piece of historical fiction with all the drama and incest of a greek tragedy. But in the end the story is well worth it. And to Cal, this history is all part of him. The genetic mutation that caused his hermaphroditism, is carried through history and culture and family, and it's all an integral part of who he is. Just as much as his own childhood (which does get plenty of pagetime too). And it has to be said, the romance of his grandparents was quite a beautiful story in its own way.
There are a lot of metaphors within the book, a recurrance of images to do with change, and new beginnings; the silk worms, Cal's grandparents journey from greece to America, greek mythology etc. Some readers complain that the metaphors could be more used, but really how hard is it to see the meaning yourself, I don't want to have deeper meaning bashed in my face like I'm too stupid to look for it myself! I thought which Eugenides does a good job of gracefully bringing all the symbology together, without belabouring the point.
One point I've seen a few people make in their review is that Cal doesn't seem to spend a lot of time 'deciding' to change from female to male. Their complaint is that they wanted to see Cal's thought process, how he decided what he really was. But in my opinion, if you have to spend a lot of time deciding.. then its not really who you are. I think the point for Cal is precisely that he didn't have to decide, it just suddenly made sense. Anything after that is just the 'how' and not the 'why' of it.
A lot of people don't like a HFN (have fun now) ending, and prefer a more complete finish. But in this case, considering the scope of the book, anything else would have been a bit trite compared to whats gone before. In a certain way the 'past' portion of the book doesn't need its own ending, as we already have the 'present' portion of the book, even if we don't see what happens inbetween, we generally get the idea that it was business as usual.
I really enjoyed Middlesex. And I would very much recommend it, but as with most things, try not to have too many expectations, just go with the flow, it's well worth it.
Additional Info: If you find yourself curious about any of the intersex terms used in the novel, or, for example, you find yourself asking "But what does Cal actually look like Down There?". Don't worry, it's perfectly normal to ask these questions. And I highly recommend you check the following link to help satisfy your human curiosity.
Another brilliant story by Josh Lanyon! Lanyon clearly has a thing for old fashion private detectives, which comes through in many of his other novelsAnother brilliant story by Josh Lanyon! Lanyon clearly has a thing for old fashion private detectives, which comes through in many of his other novels and series, Adrian English for instance a series of myster books, about a guy who owns a mystery novel bookshop, and then experiences a murder mystery, always loved wrapping my head around that! But anyway, I knew I would find Lanyon would write an old style mystery novel, and that he'd be good at it, and I wasn't wrong. Brilliantly set and characterised, Doesn't it make you want to buy a fedora and put on a long trench coat and turn up the collar, and go buy some handsome reporter a drink in a dimly lit bar. It does me....more
The story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning witThe story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning with his childhood, (just before WorldWar2), as his mexican mother leaves his american father and takes him with her back to mexico. Harrison writes his journals because he can't help but write, like other people cannot help breathing, he is destined to become an author one day. Harrison's childhood is surreally beautiful, the problems of his chain-smoking, gold digging mother are distant. His journals are all in the 3rd person, nothing ever happens directly to Harrison. It's like looking at everything from underwater.
Harrison gets a job mixing plaster for the famous mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frieda Kahlo. which gradually turns into a job as a cook, and then also a secretary. Then the exiled Lev Trotsky arrives, taken into the houshold of the Riveras, and Harrison can't help but be a part of the revolution, even so he is still always on the outside, an observer, written in the 3rd person.
In the second half of the novel, back in America, Harrison finally begins to use the personal pronoun, I. No longer talking about himself in the 3rd person, he finally owns his own words, and talks directly about himself. Yet somehow he is grown distant, like letters from a child hood friend that you grew apart from. I find it harder to connect with Harrison now, which is ironic. But it leaves space to be covered over with by the political upheaval in America. Harrison's personal life seems to happen far in the background, while in front of us the FBI and the Un-American commitee are hunting down communist sympathisers. I feel bad now for every silly joking utterance of 'bloody commies', because I never meant it, and I never realised how real it once was. I feel like I've never paid attention in history class.
"Whenever I hear thing kind of thing," he said, "a person speaking about constitutional rights, free speech, and so forth, I think, 'how can he be such a sap? Now I can be sure that man is a Red.' A word to the wise, Mr. Shepherd. We just do not hear a real American speaking in that Manner."
Theres a horribly real feeling of suffocation in this second half of the novel, neighbours turning against him, his readers turning against him, no matter how much they loved his first 2 books, now they believe any lies printed in the newspapers. The same happening to hundreds of US citizens, once they're labeled as communists, they're done for, no matter who they really are or what they really said. But it could easily be happening today. Replace the word 'communist' with the word 'terrorist', and this could be America today. It could be britain and any non mainstream political party - the British national party for instance, once the papers label you as a BNP supporter, you're demonised.
Violet Brown reminds us, when we're already well over 100 pages into the novel, that these are the private journals of a dead man who never wanted them published. And that we should stop reading if we want to respect his wishes. I almost stopped reading. It was hard to remember that the book is fiction. In fact that should be hard to remember, it should be, because in truth, in the end, it wasn't fiction. This is the most important thing about it. Harrison Shepherd and Violet Brown may never have existed, but these events too place, these things happened to someone. These things still happen to other people now, under other names and guises. It's not fiction. And that is the scariest thing about it.
Mary Renault takes the Greek Legend of Theseus and the Minotaur; combines it with real architectural findings; adds in her own literary skill.. and maMary Renault takes the Greek Legend of Theseus and the Minotaur; combines it with real architectural findings; adds in her own literary skill.. and makes it bigger and better in the telling.
My own telling of the Theseus legend would mostl likely cover half a page. Renault has made it a 350 page adventure that is half historical-fiction and half swords and sorcery fantasy.
The style of thing reminds me a fair bit of Michael Moorcock's Elric series. It's not the ending that counts here, and its not about happily ever after (sorry), it's more of a series of adventures that you can just enjoy for what they are, and then let the hero ride off into the sunset.
I thought it was pretty cool, tho I won't recommend it for everyone. I hope to get onto some of her other books someday, they just happen to be not high enough on my tbr pile....more