Johanna Zanten's Reviews > Middlesex

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
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's review
Jun 09, 2012

really liked it

This book dedicated roughly half of its pages to the family history of the first and second generations before the main protagonist of the third generation of Greek/Turkish immigrants came on the scene and it took a while before I started getting interested, in spite of its startling and intriguing beginning.
The immigration to the "new world" has never been easy for the first generations and most who have not been through it do not appreciate that fact, unless we read about it and are taken back to those days of hardship and misunderstandings between newcomers and the settled folk. As an immigrant myself I see this work as a triumph of that perspective taking. The author really succeeded in getting into the skin of the immigrant society and the process of adaptation to a new country and a new reality. I bet there are a lot of autobiographical elements in this novel.
The inbreeding of people in small communities often in remote areas has been a historical fact that we as a society tend to ignore, as it's uncomfortable because it has to do with sex--a tabu subject for many people, I say for most, even at this day and age.

Within certain societies certain marriages were arranged-- mandatory-- for instance in the European houses of royalty, to preserve political alliances and to form new ones, and cousins routinely married cousins, etc. In that world, as also in other small communities that wanted to preserve religious affiliations, this led to genetic problems that we now can trace back with new technology and its etiology becomes clear.

The story becomes more personal and more interesting in my opinion when the protagonist, a teen girl, named Calliope, discovers her sexuality and falls in love with a friend, a female school mate, whom she called the Obscure Object. The first encounter with a boy happens around the same time, and sounds more like a date rape than a date, and Callie then knows boys are not for her. Callie is a third generation immigrant and sees herself exclusively as an American. Only later comes the affiliation with a past in another country into her conscious, mind when a medical problem is discovered that throws the family in complete turmoil and causes Callliope to run away from her safe family home at age 14. Callie ends up in San Francisco living for some time amidst a group of Deadheads, fans of the Grateful Dead. She ends up working for a sex club operator. The story ends eventually when she reconciles with her family who now accepts her how she is.
The book is a large book, 529 pages. It could have been shorter and more interesting in my view, but who am I to minimize the importance of the background story that takes so much of is book? It after all won a Pulitzer price. It indeed is a roaring story, unexpected sub lines, remarkable sweet and tender, and dramatic, and a great read.

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Reading Progress

June 9, 2012 – Started Reading
June 9, 2012 – Shelved
July 16, 2012 –
0.0% "I have been reviewing other people's books, so now back to reading my own chosen book, Middlesex."
August 20, 2012 – Finished Reading

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