Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Finally, I finished it.
It was an extraordinary book though. One to remember, one to cherish, one to reread many times over in years to come.

In short

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 l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver-s license...records my first name simply as Cal." 
So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

My thoughts

Being over 500 pages long, Middlesex was a book that took me longer than expected to finish. The reason behind this would be that you can't rush this novel. 
It's a beauty and quite unique in its kind, which makes me want to thank the person who recommended it to me. At first it seems a bit daunting, knowing a little of the plot but not enough to be truly intrigued. Also Pulitzer Price winners don't necessarily guarantee smooth reading. 
This was luckily not so. You rather quickly get drawn in by an outstanding narration, one I've rarely encountered and it can be said that I read a lot. (Another one of those vivid, wonderful narrations is The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk, which I just ate up)

The narrator is at the same time the leading lady/gentleman, in which she alternately plays the role of being her/himself and the allknowing third person. 

After a quick hello, you get transported back to the beginning of the 20th century, to her grandmother still living in Turkey and her flee to America, after the greek got slaughtered by the Turkish regime.
There we are part of her life in Detroit, where we our first hand witnesses to a secret that will fill her life with dread and anxiety. We follow the lives of her son and his wife and their children, which the narrator is one of. 

The story goes back and forth between the present (2001) and the past (right up until the late 70's). In 2001 we see Cal's firsthand experience with trying to establish a normal relationship with a woman despite his setback. We get glimpses of how he shoots, but draws back when he could score, scared of showing how he is made. 
The reminiscing is mainly from a woman's perspective, since Cal started out life as Calliope, a little baby girl and throughout the novel, this female touch is noticeable. The eye for detail and the human emotions that make this novel so worth while have a feminine feel to it, even though it is supposed to be written from a man's perspective. 

All in all, it's a pearl amongst rhinestones and I can't but recommend this further!! A must read, truly!!