Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Middlesex



MIDDLESEX, by Jeffrey Eugenides

It took me a long time to get through this book, only partially because of the length of the book itself. I think my slow pace resulted from my lack of connection with any central character, and that resulted from the books jump-about fashion. Although it purports to be a book about the life and times of a hemaphrodite, the book in actuality more closely resembles a half-hearted family epic. It starts with a brief intro to the narrator himself, Cal Stephanides, but then drops into a detailed telling of the narrator's grandparents flight from Greece, and resettlement in America. The story of these greek immigrants, who also are brother and sister and eventually husband and wife, is told with such great attention that it upsets the balance of much of the rest of the novel. After we've gotten the whole convulated, involved story of the grandparents, we drop into a relatively abbreviated, incomplete version of the story of Cal's parents, and then on to the story of Cal herself. Because Cal's hermaphroditism is posited as the focus of the story, I found myself reading in expectation of getting to the main course, but Cal's genetic condition is only vaguely hinted at until the final sixty pages of the book, whereupon it assumes (too late) center stage. That's the problem with this book: lots of nice scenes and good writing, but a general lack of balance as a whole.

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