Thursday, January 6, 2011

Middlesex, part way through.

MiddlesexMiddlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I usually start reading goodreads reviews when I'm around 3/4 through a book. Just to check whether I'm on par with the rest of the world, I suppose.

I love this book. I am in Japan, have trawled tens of bookshops in search of an English section, and have some books lined up for when I allow myself to finish Middlesex. Reading reviews has disturbed me, though. As usual, there are those that, with varying degrees of detail and personal reflection, praise it.

What is particularly disturbing, however, is the number of reviews that rate the book so poorly because it describes incest, or because, essentially, it's not what they expected it to be. I don't find the book's description of incest disturbing - I find it disturbing that people are unable to read a book because they consider it to be somehow glorifying incest, in relaying a story which contains it. People are funny, but I find it horrifying that people are so happy to go about life sticking their fingers in their ears going LA LA LA.

Middlesex is a family history, which leads us through three generations of the Stephanides family. It is narrated by Cal, who is the main character of the last third of the book. Cal is a hermaphrodite, who is brought up a girl, discovers at the age of 14 that she is not definitely physically female, and starts living as a male. The fact that Cal is a hermaphrodite, and the 'reasons' for want of a better word, are the most controversial and talked about parts of the novel. They do not make the novel, though.

If you heard Oprah talk about xxx, read the book and realised that there's more to the book than Oprah's discussion of xxx, it's not a shortcoming of the book.

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