Pulitzer Prize, Fiction, 2003In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop physically - 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 is a rare genetic mutation - and a guilty secret - that have followed Callie's grandparents from the crumbling Ottoman Empire to Prohibition-era Detroit and beyond, outlasting the glory days of the Motor City, the race riots of 1967, and the family's second migration, into the foreign country known as suburbia. Thanks to the gene, Callie is part girl, part boy. And even though the gene's epic travels have ended, her own odyssey has only begun.
Spanning eight decades - and one unusually awkward adolescence - Jeffrey Eugenides' long-awaited second novel is a grand, original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire.
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©2002 Jeffrey Eugenides; (P)2002 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC
Audie Award Winner, Fiction (Unabridged), 2003
" "Impressive [and] wonderfully engaging." (The New York Times)
"Eugenides proves that he is not only a unique voice in modern literature but also well versed in the nature of the human heart. Highly recommended." (Library Journal )
"A towering achievement...a story that manages to be both illuminating and transcendent...[Eugenides] has emerged as the great American writer many of us suspected him of being." (Los Angeles Times Book Review)
"Not only are his interpretations of the characters astonishingly credible, but his internalization of the narrative is nothing short of amazing." (Publishers Weekly)
I began listening to the book and about 15 minutes into it I was kicking myself for downloading a bummer of a book.
I thought I had erased it from my reader, but discovered it was still there one day when another book I'd been listening to was over. I was out and about and had nothing else to do so I listened to this one.... and another 30 minutes later I found it starting to grow on me.
That means it took nearly 45 minutes to get into this book, but once I did, I never looked back. I listened to the rest over the next couple of days, not wanting to take off the headphones unless I had to.
If you'd have asked me during the first 30 minutes, I'd have given you a rating of 2. AS it is I give it a rating of 4 and was glad I waited it out.
If you listen to this book while driving to or from work beware... You're going to wish you hit a traffic jam. This is one of the best Audiobooks I've ever listened to. At first I thought Kristoffer Tabori was the person who wrote the book. His accents, voices and naration are second to none. And the book itself deserves the best narration possible. This book will leave you laughing an crying. It will make you want to camp out in your car.
I thouroughly enjoyed this novel both for it's content and narrator. I was packing to move, and once I got well enough into it, I lay on the couch for hours listening. Packing my apartment was delayed for three days. Eugenides' painstaking detail and insight unravel one human experience. It seemed as though I were listening to an autobiography. Tabori brought each character alive with distiction. I recommend.
Few of the reviews I have read on Audible.com have done justice to this magnificent narrative. "Middlesex", Jeffrey Eugenides second novel, tells the story of Calliope, a male-pseudo hermaphrodite. But the novel does not deal with a narrow political issue or become a polemic and gender or sex. Rather, the novel uses the narrator's peculiar genetic make-up (and Greek ancestry) to boil down humanity and find the common core we all share--love, sorrow, life, and death.
This novel is truly well written. Eugenides has a knack for weaving a fascinating story around historical events and changing social attitudes and customs. The narrative has just the right amount of digression--musing on such topics as race, Greek mythology and the history of Detroit. Though many authors try to use the technique of lingering of the details of a narrative, few succeed, and fewer still are able to make relevant digressions which build on the characters in the story. Eugenides succeeds at this admirably.
Though nearly so, the book is not perfect. There are times when the eccentricities of the characters become grating on the nerves, and times when such oddities seem unrealistic. But perhaps these flaws are meant to add the comic to this modern Greek tragedy. Another flaw, as I see it, of the production is the cheesy music thrown in at the most poignant moments of the narratives.
In all, this is an excellent production, and well worth the time and money. Another bonus is that listeners have the chance to listen to a Pulitzer winning narrative from an author who will likely produce other great novels (if you haven't read "The Virgin Suicides," by Eugenides, you should).
Poet, Writer, Novice Planetary Scientist, Musician, Hooligan, Former Audience Guy, Protector of Stupid Princesses.
I was hesitant to read this book because of the subject matter. My fear was that it would be an endless lecture on the problems the transgendered community face in daily life. Although I am sympathetic, I did not want to read a novel about this subject. Middlesex is a book about people. It is brilliant and powerful and broad in scope. There is something here for everyone. The synopsis blurb describing this novel does not do it justice. It is a wonderful book.
Knowledge is knowing the way. Wisdom is looking for an alternative, more interesting road to get there. Audiobooks are that road.
I thought this book was going to be about a hermaphrodite. Although it was, the story involving Calliope Stephanides the main character in the book does not really come into play till approximately the last quarter of the book.
Instead, the book is a saga, starting back from Cal's grandparents and their journey out of Europe and to the US where Cal's parents come into play and finally Cal and his brother become part of the book. The journey is a fascinating one and quite enjoyable.
The narrator Kristoffer Tabori did a marvelous job reading and acting out this novel. It was long, but a good story, a difficult subject that was handled well.
I enjoy historical fiction and was interested in the setting of Grosse Pointe Michigan which I have visited. Thirty minutes into the tape I started to doubt my choice but decided to stick with it awhile longer. It was well worth it! Don't let the unusual subject matter deter you. This is a compelling story, beautifully written with an excellent narrator. It will linger on my mind for some time.
I wish I'd liked it better but I found it really slow going and often I just honestly didn't feel anything for the characters or care what happened to them. When a book wins a major award you feel you should give it a chance, right? It certainly sounded like an interesting premise and I was prepared to enjoy it so I kept on listening beyond when I would have otherwise given up. All books aren't for all people so maybe this is a great author but this particular book is just not for me. Listen to the sample and decide if you like what you hear before you select this book.
My usual reading fare are mysteries, ie., Harry Bosh, Hercule Poirot, so when I started listening to "Middlesex" I wasn't sure I'd bother even downloading the next two tapes. However, the narrator had a way of capturing my reluctant attention. The interwinding of the past and present was done with such finesse that I barely noticed the flawless seams. The charactors were actually visible in my minds eye even though I did not always care for them. Although it is still not the "type" of book I would probably ever read again, I've found this one to be of excellent quality with superb narration.
And maybe this is damning with faint praise, but I thought this was a good book, not a great book. I would offer five stars only to a classic, and I think "Middlesex" unlikely to become one. The scope of the book was amazing, the characters well developed, and the story lines neatly tied up. It is a very handsome package, but not exactly a great gift.
For a book of its length, the listener should love the narrator. I found this one good at interpreting the characters and giving them distinctive voices, but occasionally over-the-top in his delivery -- sometimes even grating. I felt in some chapters that I was being harrangued -- not led -- through the narrative.
Still it is a gratifying glimpse into several subcultures and multiple time periods. It is well worth listening to, but hard to compare to Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" (as many do) except in the most literal aspects of the main character's sexuality. Whether this is literary fiction or just good best seller writing, I do not know.
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