Middlesex

17 06 2012

When I first came across the book ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides , I took it to be about the England’s second smallest historic county. I surmised it to be a British novel depicting England’s small town/country lifestyle. For some reason, I expected it to be similar or along the lines of ‘The Corrections’ by Jonathan Franzen, which is a dismal portrayal of American life – of a typical Midwestern family. Consequently, I assumed it to be not a very easy read as was the case with ‘The Corrections’.  Also at play was my preconceived notion (rightly or wrongly) that the British literature is a bit more complicated and often the famous/notable authors produce works that require considerable effort by an average reader compared to American literature. Added to these aforementioned misgivings, I was so intrigued by the author’s last name (it almost seemed magical/musical to me) that I unwittingly ignored the first name, which is clearly masculine, and somehow took the author as a female and awaited the distinct woman’s touch. It’s not until much later that I discovered (when I purposefully glanced through the back cover) that I was quite wrong. Talk about selective perception!

It was with all these reservations and prenotions that I picked up ‘Middle sex’ for reading during my vacation. I was so sure that it would last the entire two weeks of my visit to the  hometown that I didn’t take any other book along. But I was proved wrong. It was such a delightful read that I couldn’t stop till the end and finished it off very soon.

I was met with great shock as I read the little blurb about the novel on the book cover. It’s  an American novel and not a British one as I thought. Even before I got over this startling fact, I discovered, quite logically, that the story is no way related to the place called ‘Middlesex’ but rather the title is to be interpreted sort of literally. In fact, this is the story of a hermaphrodite. ‘Middlesex’ is about Cal, who had been brought up as a girl – Calliope – until 15 when he was confronted with the awkwardness of his body and the knowledge of the recessive mutation on his fifth chromosome.

The narration starts 3 generations back with Cal’s Greek grandparents and unfolds their lives of their subsequent generations from Bursa, a tiny village in Asia Minor (part of Turkey) to Detroit, USA. The writing and the narration sucked me into the story and I got absorbed into Stephandines’ lives inadvertently. It was hard to put the book down and the powerful prose was a pleasure to read. I couldn’t help but wonder at the way the story unraveled. ‘Middlesex’ got me completely hooked. It was not until about half into the bulk that I encountered the reference to the title. ‘Middlesex’  refers to the house Cal’s father Milton acquires in the late 60s, where most of Cal’s story happens.

The effortless way Jeffrey has interspersed past, present and future in his narration is something that should be marveled about. It seemed so natural with least confusion or inconvenience to the reader. Given the unusual subject coupled with its wonderful treatment, ‘Middlesex’ will remain one of the unforgettable books I ever read. I’m sure this epic tale lingers fresh on my mind at least for a long to time, if not forever.

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2 responses

23 06 2012
Haritha

Wow! Nasty shock, that one! God be with Cal. No wonder it won a Pulitzer.

6 01 2013
2012 reading « Peek Inside My Mind

[…] wrote elaborate posts for Middlesex and Mistress after I read them. So I don’t feel the need to say anything about them now. The […]

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