My book club recently read Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. The book had been on my radar for awhile, but I normally run away from Oprah Book Club selections. But I heard enough good buzz on the internet to give it a try, and several members of the book club wanted to read it too.
Middlesex is not at all what I expected. I had previously read Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides, but these two books don’t even feel like they’re written by the same author, and yet I enjoyed them both. Reading Middlesex is like being part of a greatly entertaining history class at time, there’s knowledge, humor, wit, tragedy, murder and adventure. The main character of the story doesn’t make an official entrance until late in the book but it works. The subject matter at first glance might seem simple- a child is born a hermaphrodite, mistakenly believed to be a perfectly formed female thanks to a super old doctor, and later chooses to become male. And yes, there’s some incest in the book that leads to Callie/Cal’s unique chromosomes, but it’s not the Flowers in the Attic type.
Middlesex isn’t a condition, it’s not even the titled house, it’s a journey that takes you from the mountains of Olympus, to the burning of Smyrna, from the streets of Detroit to the suburbs of Grosse Pointe, from a New York hospital to a freak show in San Fransisco, and along the way each location becomes as brilliantly formed as any character ever written.
Is Middlesex a perfect novel? Sadly, no. The story begins with the grandparents who are so richly drawn and go through so much that their children seem less so when the story is theirs, and the main character is never as fleshed out as Desdemona and Lefty. And although I loved this book, I was able to put it down at times. The first few pages of the novel I was so confused and unsure of whether or not I liked the writing style that I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into. It didn’t take too long to grab a hold of me, but it wasn’t love at first sight.
Middlesex gets a Midnight Book Rating of 11pm because I really enjoyed it, learned without feeling like I was being schooled, and because it didn’t feel like any book I’ve read before. It might not be enough to keep you reading through the night, but I would recommend this book to anyone.