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LaurenBDavis

LAUREN B. DAVIS

Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.

Middlesex: A Novel

Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides I wanted very much to like this book more than I did. So many of my literary friends found it a 'five star' read. For me, though, although I respect the ambition of the book, and admire Eugenides ability to turn a phrase (I thoroughly enjoyed his earlier work, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES), I'm afraid the narrative simply didn't hold my interest. By page 300 I found myself wanting to skip passages, and counting pages, which is never a good sign. Perhaps the problem lay in Eugenides point of view choice. The book is narrated by Cal Stephanides, a hermaphrodite who tells the story of his/her incestuous grandparents and parents and takes us from war-torn Turkey to Detroit to Berlin, to Ford factories and the birth of the Nation of Islam . . . as I said, the ambitions are grand. But of course there is a problem with having a first person narrator tell the story of other people -- the narrator can't really know what's going on in other people's heads, can't really have overheard conversations that happened before he was born, can't realistically describe every sense detail of events at which he wasn't present. I'm all for breaking rules if it works, but for me this didn't quite. Just as I was getting involved in the lives and emotions of the characters, up popped Cal again, commenting on things he/she couldn't possibly know. It felt like authorial intrusion and only reminded me of the limitations of the first person point of view. It was a clever device, in a look-at-how-terrific-a-writer-I-am sort of way, but detracted from the story ... for me. There are others, obviously many, who weren't bothered in any way by this technique. The fault may, as always, be mine as a reader. Still, the truth is it didn't engage me the way I hoped it would.