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Middlesex | Book Review

I am so guilty about not writing for so many days, especially since I’m leaving to Shillong tomorrow and won’t write again for a few days, that you folks are in for a barrage of posts today. Enjoy! xD

The book that I will be reviewing today is Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, as promised.  Because I keep promises. Because I’m diligent. And not at all lazy. Yes.

This is Jeffrey Eugenides’ second book. I read the Marriage Plot, which is his newest book, earlier this year, and I really enjoyed it. I thought I’d read his remaining books in reverse chronological order so I went ahead and read Middlesex on my Kindle. (Instant gratification ftw!)

This book is about an intersex man, Cal Stephanides, who was raised as a girl until he hit puberty, at which point he didn’t physically develop as a girl would and he sort of discovers that he doesn’t have female reproductive organs. At this point, he chooses to the rest of his life as a man.

This book obviously has a very under-explored theme and it’s done well, for which I love it. I am an LGBTQ supporter, as I said earlier, and I love books that represent LGBTQ persons well. This is especially the case for transsexuals, transvestites and intersex persons who are still caricaturised in popular culture and are viewed with a mixture of fear and disgust. You know what breeds fear and disgust, guys? Ignorance, that’s what. Reading a combination of academic research and well-written fiction and non-fiction from the perspective of under-represented minorities is an excellent way to walk a mile in their shoes and understand them.

All of that is well and good, of course, but what took the cake with this book was the mesmerising narrative style. This book is a family drama first and foremost and the story of his ancestry is told by a 43 year old Cal in a series of flashbacks. You get to know his entire family this was and you see their growth and development through years, but uniquely, you only see it through Cal’s eyes. Cal’s narration is lyrical and graphic at the same time, and it’s simply fabulous. I seem to invariably fall in love with books that follow a non-linear narrative pattern, which this book obviously has, since it alternates between Cal’s present and his history, which is strange and shocking ways, made him what he is.

This is an excellent book, though it dragged on in a few parts, I felt. That may have just been because of the lyrical style of writing, though, because I personally belong to the Hemingway school of thought about simple terse language. Even though I do ramble on exceedingly, I do try to keep my language simplistic and I cringe more often than not, if I read ‘flowery’ writing. Really, the impressive part is that I was so taken with this book despite the language occasionally tending towards ornate and flowery. (There’s objectively nothing wrong with such language. I just have a preference for simple language in prose.) It was extremely arresting and gets full marks for premise, plot-line, narrative and character development. Many, many heart-bubbles are floating towards it, to quote a classmate of mine.

I totally recommend it. I cannot wait to get my grubby little mitts on The Virgin Suicides which is apparently his masterpiece. That begs the question, “My god, how much better can one write?!” Yes. Dwell on that, my little munchkins, until you pick up this book and discover how good this book is and how right I am.

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