Inder's Reviews > Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
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May 28, 08

bookshelves: 1001-books, read-2008, 21st-century, fiction, summer-reading, midwest, greece
Recommended to Inder by: Stefani
Recommended for: Mom, Dad, anyone looking for a good summer read
Read in May, 2008

Whew! I finally have a minute to breathe and review this book!

It's a big book, but it's a fast, fun read. Because of its size, I put off starting it, but once I started, I was hooked from the first line.

The plot is wonderfully sprawling, covering most of the last century, full of great history and detail, a long epic poem (Calliope, the main character is named after the muse of epic poetry). It sucks you along at a great clip through the invasion of the Turks into Greece (and the counter-invasion) in the early 20s, the burning of Smyrna, the early auto industry in Detroit, WWII, the race riots, through to the sexual revolution and beyond. But since the focus is unwaveringly personal, the history is easy to digest. (I do love history, but I know how it can bog down a novel.)

As well as being fun and easy, it is also wonderfully nerdy. Rife with references to Homer, Ovid, the Bible, and the Greek Tragedies, it also had moments of Moby Dick, War & Peace, and (not surprisingly - there are no coincidences in this book, title or otherwise) Middlemarch. The references are subtle and unpretentious and if you don't care about the "canon," you will hardly notice them. But if you're a bookish nerd with a good basis in the classics, you're going to get even more from it. Thus, I would say that this is a very "smart" novel, too, although it's so breezy, you hardly notice the intellectual rigour.

More obviously, this is really interesting take on sexual orientation/gender identity. I loved that this issue was handled in such an interesting, sensitive way, not at all what I expected. The author bends so easily between a female and male voice (both convincing) that you start to wonder if he is a hermaphrodite too. I also loved that this wasn't the entire focus of the novel. It's there, but it's not the gimmick I feared it would be. Rather, the double-gendered narrator, Homer's Tiresias, is really just, well, human. Which may have been the point.

Awesome. I highly recommend this novel.
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