Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A Novel

80%

36 Critic Reviews

A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irresistible.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

A dazzling triumph from the bestselling author of The Virgin Suicides--the astonishing tale of a gene that passes down through three generations of a Greek-American family and flowers in the body of a teenage girl.

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blond clasmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia- back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City and Prohibition, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie's grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.

Spanning eight decades--and one unusually awkward adolescence- Jeffrey Eugenides's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire. It marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, named one of America's best young novelists by both Granta and The New Yorker.

Middlesex is the winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

 

About Jeffrey Eugenides

See more books from this Author
Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux to great acclaim in 1993, and was adapted into a film by Sofia Coppola. Middlesex received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, and was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and France's Prix Medicis, and was selected for Oprah's Book Club. It has sold more than 3 million copies.
 
Published January 1, 2002 by Farrar, Strauss. 539 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Children's Books, History, War. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Middlesex
All: 36 | Positive: 33 | Negative: 3

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irresistible.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Feb 14 2016

Eugenides, like Rick Moody, has an extraordinary sensitivity to the mores of our leafier suburbs, and Cal's gender confusion is blended with the story of her first love...This is one determinedly literary novel that should also appeal to a large, general audience.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Mullan on Nov 11 2011

Eugenides has the language of genes with which to pursue fictionally the before-life of an individual, but the novelistic principle has not changed and makes the narrator know what he can only imagine.

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Lawson on Oct 05 2002

But in this epic novel narrated by an American born with twin-set genitals, Jeffrey Eugenides silences such cheap jokes with a rich comedy of his own...The trick of the novel is that the gene which carries the possibility of androgyny becomes, for the reader, like a revolver brandished in the first act of a play.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Mark Lawson on Oct 05 2002

...Eugenides continues to be the Joyce of the personal pronoun. The narrative tone - best characterised as a sardonic empathy - has possible progenitors in Muriel Spark and John Irving, but bears the individual imprint of Greek America.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jun 09 2007

But readers who come to Middlesex because of the peculiarities of the story, will remember it for the quality of its writing. Eugenides is a brilliant stylist, full of clever asides, striking metaphors, and memorable turns of phrase. The prose starts strong, but gets even better as the novel progresses.

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Examiner

Below average
Reviewed by Lisa Westerfield on Jul 18 2012

...many critics consider it in contention for being “the great American novel” of all time. I obviously did not find it so. I felt many of the things I wanted to know were left out in the storytelling while things I already knew were given in great detail.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Jim Gladstone on Sep 16 2002

Old-fashioned and new-fangled, loaded with smarts but not afraid of sentiment, MIDDLESEX is a joy to read.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Keith Phipps on Sep 27 2002

The sweep of Middlesex is impressive, but not so much as Eugenides' ability to visualize history as a matrix of coincidences, unexpected repetitions, and poignant ironies...sexual tension settles into a body which transforms constant conflict into an element of a greater harmony.

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AV Club

Above average
Reviewed by Keith Phipps on Sep 27 2002

The sweep of Middlesex is impressive, but not so much as Eugenides' ability to visualize history as a matrix of coincidences, unexpected repetitions, and poignant ironies...Callie/Cal's story has as much to do with the cultural and familial history leading up to it as the gender confusion it inspires.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Jeff Turrentine on Sep 01 2002

"Middlesex" isn't just a respectable sophomore effort; it's a towering achievement, and it can now be stated unequivocally that Eugenides' initial triumph wasn't a one-off or a fluke. He has emerged as the great American writer that many of us suspected him of being.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by LISA SCHWARZBAUM on Sep 13 2002

Backtracking, detouring, and revisiting, Eugenides is sometimes so eager to tell all he feels and knows that he chomps and races through what he sees...But the writing itself is also about mixing things up, grafting flights of descriptive fancy with hunks of conversational dialogue.

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Pajiba

Above average
Reviewed by Sophia on Feb 26 2009

There is a lot of built-in suspense throughout the book as Cal lets some details slip—such as the fact that he was born a girl; but then you still want to find out what exactly he is, how he found out, and how he felt about it, that keeps you turning the pages.

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BookPage

Good
Reviewed by Robert Weibezahl on Feb 12 2016

Given his biological makeup, this particular strand of the Stephanides line will end with Cal. But Middlesex does not end with sadness, it ends with a kind of hope that springs from Cal's humor-tempered realization that we humans can get used to just about anything, if we give it a chance.

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About.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Colleen AF Venable on Oct 09 2014

Middlesex is nothing short of epic; one family's survival on a twisted path through Greece to 20th Century America...Middlesex is pure brilliance, a novel that most surely will secure its place in the literary canon for generations to come.

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About.com Bestsellers

Above average
Reviewed by Erin Collazo Miller on Jan 17 2013

Middlesex is more literary than a lot of bestsellers, and there were points in the middle of the book when I was afraid it was slowing down too much; however, in the end Middlesex is a good read that speeds to a climax and does not disappoint.

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People

Above average
on Sep 23 2002

It's sensational stuff, but Eugenides brings a sophisticated touch, taking his time with an intricate 400 pages or so of bizarre family history building up to Callie's discovery of her condition. The conclusion, though, feels rushed...

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Oprah.com

Good
on Jun 05 2007

Jeffrey Eugenides's epic portrayal of Cal's struggle is classical in its structure and scope and contemporary in its content—a tender and honest examination of a battle that is increasingly relevant to us all.

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Curious Book Fans

Excellent
Reviewed by Davida Chazan on Aug 19 2012

Mind you, it isn’t the easiest read out there, so keep it for a time when you can concentrate on it. If you do, it will be well worth the effort. The subtle use of language and style is exceptional and the subject matter of the book is uniquely absorbing. I can’t recommend this highly enough...

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San Jose Mercury News

Above average
Reviewed by Kel Kanady on May 22 2013

...it is so much more than a story of a person transitioning from life as a female to life as a male. Eugenides shows fantastic creativity in using adult Cal as an omnipresent narrator who discloses the "terrible secret" his grandparents kept...

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Film School Rejects

Good
Reviewed by Kate Erbland on Nov 19 2011

Put down the remote. Pick up a book. At the very least, it will send you into a family-laden holiday time with a deep sense of gratitude that you’re not a Stephanides.

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The Brooklyn Rail

Below average
Reviewed by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow on Dec 01 2003

Although it is surely an accomplishment to sustain a narrative for 529 pages, it also creates the need to justify its size. A big book makes a lot of demands on the reader: in terms of stamina and attention span...Especially lamentable is a book whose bulk is due to an unrestrained plot and unsubtle writing.

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Curled Up

Good
Reviewed by Amanda Cuda on Jan 28 2014

Cal’s inner struggle is compelling, but so are the troubles of those around him. It’s a wonderful story full of colorful, involving characters, and Eugenides deserves all the accolades he’s gotten if only for his gift of taking characters...that society treats as somehow “other” and getting us to see ourselves in them.

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Quick Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by David Ben Efraim on Feb 03 2014

All in all, those who enjoy deep and thought-provoking family sagas will definitely take a liking to this book.

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Devourer of Books

Good
on May 31 2008

More than anything, this novel was a story of the immigrant experience and...2nd and 3rd generation immigrants who just happen to be dealing with a recessive gene causing hermaphroditism...This book is absolutely fantasic and I truly recommend it.

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The Blue Bookcase

Good
Reviewed by IngridLola on Jan 23 2012

Moving beyond this, though, I was extremely impressed with Eugenides' style. It felt like a movie - the narrative zoomed in and out, there were montages, moments when time went backwards and sped forward. It was cool and it kept me interested, even when the story wasn't at its most excited moments. Very impressive.

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Literate Housewife

Above average
Reviewed by Literate Housewife on Mar 27 2007

I enjoyed this book, even though it did not read quickly. This book is just as much about family dynamics as it is about the way in which genetic deformities are passed down and finally manifested in the younger generations. You will enjoy the flawed grandparents, parents, and siblings.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Good
Reviewed by Kim on Apr 27 2010

Eugenides book is exactly the sort of educational and historical fiction that I love to read, so I was definitely wasn’t disappointed in this book...One of the best qualities of this book is the way Eugenides skillfully weaves together history and fiction.

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Vulpus Libris

Good
Reviewed by SamRuddock on May 21 2010

Middlesex is one of those books one could write about forever, and reproduce huge passages in an effort to convey its scope and the quality of its prose. It’s funny too, and audacious and thrilling. But you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

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https://suite101.com

Above average
Reviewed by Jenna Galley on Jan 28 2014

Middlesex is jam packed with incredible symbolism, metaphors and foreshadowing at every corner, many of which relate to Greek mythology. You cannot turn the page without picking up a quote, a sentence or even a word that drips with double meaning.

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Literary Musings

Excellent
Reviewed by B on May 18 2011

The novel is preoccupied with the idea splits and divides; within our identity, our desires, our families, our culture and our place in the world...This is truly an amazing book. If you haven't already read it, I highly recommended you do so.

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The Bibliobrat

Excellent
Reviewed by J.C. on Mar 28 2014

...I could not restrain myself as I got closer to the end. In fact, I stayed up to four in the morning finishing the book as I simply could not put it down. Obviously, this novel is highly recommended.

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The Bibliobrat

Excellent
Reviewed by J.C. Montgomery on Jul 18 2009

I love the objectiveness of Cal’s tone. Far enough away that most of the emotion has softened, yet not so much that the reader ever feels held at a distance. On the contrary, the honesty and humor of the narrator is what kept me turning pages...Obviously, this novel is highly recommended.

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http://mostlyfiction.com

Good
Reviewed by Jenny Dressel on Jan 09 2003

It took Eugenides 10 years to write Middlesex after his first novel. This reminds me of Donna Tartt, who has just recently re-surfaced with the Little Friend...But if it takes Eugenides 10 years to write another novel as lovely as Middlesex is written, I'm willing to wait. And so is the rest of my book group.

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The New Canon

Above average
Reviewed by Ted Gioia on Jan 28 2014

But readers who come to Middlesex because of the peculiarities of the story, will remember it for the quality of its writing. Eugenides is a brilliant stylist, full of clever asides, striking metaphors, and memorable turns of phrase. The prose starts strong, but gets even better as the novel progresses.

Read Full Review of Middlesex: A Novel

chasing bawa

Good
Reviewed by sakura on Dec 09 2010

Eugenides tackles American, Greek and Turkish history, immigrant life, genetics, sexual theory and hermaphroditism in a way that increases your knowledge without overwhelming you. His prose is warm and sumptious and you can just sit back and let him work the magic because you feel like you’ve met these people and they live their lives for you.

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Reader Rating for Middlesex
84%

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