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Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex (2002)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
20,33646773 (4.12)752
  1. 101
    The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (sipthereader)
  2. 80
    Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (_debbie_)
    _debbie_: Both are (at least partially) historical novels with strong themes of identity, coming of age, and going against the mainstream to stay true to what you feel is right. Although one is set in Victorian England and the other isn't, they both have that same feel of rich language and descriptive place.… (more)
  3. 92
    A Widow for One Year by John Irving (readerbabe1984)
  4. 81
    The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving (Othemts)
    Othemts: Multi-generational eccentric families, entrepreneurship, incest, the average made epic - yep, these books have it all!
  5. 83
    The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: share the same exquisite sense of setting: boring, but not terrible suburban America, second half of last century.
  6. 51
    As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto (librorumamans, librorumamans)
    librorumamans: The connection of this book to Middlesex is Eugenides' character, Dr Luce, who appears to be modelled on Dr John Money of Johns Hopkins University. As Nature Made Him is a non-fiction account of Money's experimental (and unsuccessful) sex reassignment of David Reimer, whose botched infant circumcision left him genitally mutilated. Both books compellingly look at the complexity of gender identity.… (more)
  7. 30
    Anywhere but Here by Mona Simpson (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both are very American stories, about families in the 20th century, fighting wars, starting businesses, raising families, and both feature a teenage protagonist.
  8. 41
    The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (ainsleytewce)
    ainsleytewce: Both begin with immigrants who come to America at approximately the same time.
  9. 30
    The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Anonymous user)
  10. 20
    Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of a City by Marjorie Housepian Dobkin (Anonymous user)
  11. 20
    How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Joanne Meyerowitz (jacr)
  12. 31
    Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (someproseandcons)
    someproseandcons: Both books are family and community sagas centered around secrets, and both books are carried by a strong and compelling voice.
  13. 64
    The Human Stain by Philip Roth (sarah-e)
    sarah-e: A character 'passes' in society - dealing with culture and identity.
  14. 21
    Annabel by Kathleen Winter (BookshelfMonstrosity, DawsonOakes)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Annabel follows the life of a hermaphrodite who was not masculine enough to please his father. The novel explores themes of family relations, gender roles, and sexual identity similar to those in Middlesex.
    DawsonOakes: While reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, Annabel is a compelling and accomplished debut novel about one person’s struggle to discover the truth in a culture that shuns contradiction. Annabel offers some hard themes for readers. It is the story of an intersex child born in a remote coastal Labrador village in 1968. Primarily, I feel, Winter has written an homage to self-determination and self-preservation. An intersex child is born with atypical reproductive anatomy – both male and female anatomy are present. Advocates for intersex infants argue against surgical alterations of gentalia and reproductive organs being performed in order to accommodate societal expectations of what it means to be male or female in the world. This choice forms the centre of Winter’s novel.… (more)
  15. 10
    Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (Booksloth)
  16. 22
    Intersex: A Perilous Difference by Morgan Holmes (boat-song)
    boat-song: Contains an amazing chapter on Eugenides and Middlesex, and for those interested in gender, a must read.
  17. 11
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (2810michael)
  18. 11
    Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy by Thomas Beatie (infiniteletters)
  19. 11
    Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: The destiny of an individual and a family bound up with that of a particular time and place.
  20. 00
    Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes by T Cooper (susanbooks)

(see all 28 recommendations)


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» See also 752 mentions

English (456)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (466)
Showing 1-5 of 456 (next | show all)
I really liked the writing style of this book, it is beautiful. ( )
  locriian | Oct 27, 2014 |
Just finished reading this for the second time and I had forgotten what an amazing book it is. This book is definitely one of the top 10 best novels I've ever read. Humorous, touching, brilliant. Never a dull moment. The coming-of-age story of a hermaphrodite is certainly a unique idea for a novel, but it is executed so well, that Cal/lie's journey felt very familiar to even someone like me who has not experienced gender identity issues.

The secondary characters never felt secondary, including the city of Detroit, which played pretty central background motif for Cal/lie's (and her family's) angst and growth.

Loved the Greek influences in the novel: Eugenides playfully calling on muses, the school play, elements of Greek tragedy, mixed with the staples of mid-to-late 20th century American culture.

A near-perfect novel that I know I will read again and again. ( )
1 vote dulcinea14 | Sep 18, 2014 |
This book started out really strongly for me - I could hardly put it down - and then I lost interest. The main problem I had with this book was the length. I don't understand why so many new books have to be so long - in my opinion there was so much that could be cut from this book. I got into a discussion about this with someone, who pointed out that people don't learn the language like before - learning Latin and knowing the roots and understanding the makeup of so many words rather than just the words themselves, and I realized that in reading this book I very rarely came across a word I didn't know. My vocabulary is not that good. I always find words I don't know and have to look them up. But there were hardly any in this.

And anyway, why should someone need 500 pages to tell a story? Jane Austen did it just fine in 300. Maybe I'm a hypocrite; one of my favorite books is 700 pages, but that was about several characters - not just one or two.

The book also seemed unbalanced; it ended just as I thought it was getting into the swing of things. The narrator was insecure, it seemed, from the beginning, but it ended with a teenager who had just switched genders, as if he was perfectly secure with himself. I want to know more about Cal getting to know himself as a boy.

Then there was the total unreliability of the narrator. This is not a problem in itself but I found it annoying in a book that was written mostly as a memoir. I wanted to know more about the storytelling itself, after knowing getting so much story, in so much detail. Instead my response is that even as a work of fiction, I don't believe what I read, because who could Cal(lie) know all of the things he has supposedly just told us?

All that said: a fascinating book. The topic is, of course, original, and interesting. The first part in particular, the story of Desdemona, was completely consuming for me (but then I'm a sucker for the immigrant story). And Eugenides is a great writer. I loved many of his phrases, etc. (But I also thought the car chase at the end could have been described in a quarter the length... I got so bored!)

I definitely want to read his other books now. ( )
1 vote GraceZ | Sep 6, 2014 |
This is a remarkable and lingering read. I would like to jump into a philosophical discussion of the book--but on the surface--the story without analysis--just the story, is so astounding and believable, the book can be judged on that alone. But of course, there is so much more. I demonstrated in Detroit during the Gerald Ford administration, afterward visiting Greek Town for some Rhoditis and grilled lamb. My friends were politically informed, intelligent and well read, passionate and musical. A few of them grew up in Detroit, some on Chicago's northwest side. They lived so fully, I just wanted to be part of it--for as long as possible. And what was happening to their loved community? Modern times, I suppose.

Middlesex. It is a documentary of diversity in America with Detroit acting as the host to inevitable change. Calliope Stephanides and her remarkable and epic life's narrative will bring you joy at the resilience of the human spirit. Eugenides, to me, is one of THE authors of our generation. It is a homage to Greek heritage, the history of America going through yet another major cultural change, a sensitive exploration of gender identity, of intelligence and desire. I love this book. I will read it again. And wait for more!
A bottle of Mont Ambelos white would be grand; I know it's not available, but if it were, it would be a fine accompaniment to your reading. Make sure you have some fresh baklava, too.
  ruthann.yeaton | Jul 25, 2014 |
He lay there breathing. Then, with closed eyes, he moved his head and tunneled under the pillow with me. He started to nuzzle me. He brought his hair across the skin of my neck and after that came the sensitive organs. His eyelashes made butterfly kisses on my chin. His nose snuffled in the hollow of my throat. And then his lips arrived, avid, clumsy. I wanted him off me. At the same time I asked myself if I had brushed my teeth. Jerome was sliding and climbing on top of me and it felt like it had the night before, like a crushing weight. So do boys and men announce their intentions. They cover you like a sarcophagus lid. And call it love.

Middlesex is two stories: one, a family history spanning from 1920s Greece through Detroit in the late 70s. And the other, a memoir of the coming of age of Calliope Stephanides, an hermaphrodite being raised as a girl and struggling with all of the same pressures and miseries as any American teenager – plus a little extra.

At times funny, at times utterly heartbreaking, and always insightful, I found Eugenides’ work hard to put down. The story of Calliope is told with compassion and humor, but also provides a unique lens through which to view pieces of our history, including US Prohibition, the race riots of the late 60s, and the dreams which so many had of coming to America to start new lives, so often to only have new hardships thrust upon them. A truly remarkable novel, and highly recommended. ( )
  philosojerk | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 456 (next | show all)
This novel repeats the stand-out achievements of The Virgin Suicides: an ability to describe the horrible in a comic voice, an unusual form of narration and an eye for bizarre detail.
added by SqueakyChu | editGuardian, Mark Lawson (Oct 5, 2002)
Eugenides does such a superb job of capturing the ironies and trade-offs of assimilation that Calliope's evolution into Cal doesn't feel sudden at all, but more like a transformation we've been through ourselves.
Some of this footloose book is charming. Most of it is middling.
added by Shortride | editTime, Richard Lacayo (Sep 23, 2002)
His narrator is a soul who inhabits a liminal realm, a creature able to bridge the divisions that plague humanity, endowed with ''the ability to communicate between the genders, to see not with the monovision of one sex but in the stereoscope of both.'' That utopian reach makes ''Middlesex'' deliriously American; the novel's patron saint is Walt Whitman, and it has some of the shagginess of that poet's verse to go along with the exuberance. But mostly it is a colossal act of curiosity, of imagination and of love.
''Middlesex'' is a novel about roots and rootlessness. (The middle-sex, middle-ethnic, middle-American DNA twists are what move Cal to Berlin; the author now lives there too.) But the writing itself is also about mixing things up, grafting flights of descriptive fancy with hunks of conversational dialogue, pausing briefly to sketch passing characters or explain a bit of a bygone world.

''The Virgin Suicides'' is all of a piece, contained within the boundaries of one neighborhood; ''Middlesex'' -- a strange Scheherazade of a book -- is all in pieces, as all big family stories are, bursting the boundaries of logic.

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eugenides, Jeffreyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nilsson, Hans-JacobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tabori, KristofferNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Yama, who comes from a different gene pool entirely
First words
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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Book description
Three generations of a Greek American family find themselves plagued by a mutant gene which causes bizarre side effects in the family's teenage girls.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312427735, Paperback)

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:33 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Calliope's friendship with a classmate and her sense of identity are compromised by the adolescent discovery that she is a hermaphrodite, a situation with roots in her grandparents' desperate struggle for survival in the 1920s.

» see all 9 descriptions

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