2006 Books Read – #9

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides


I’d been wanting to read this since I first heard about it. And it was good: a well-written, entertaining story. But at the same time, it wasn’t quite as satisfying as I expected—I think because, although it’s ostensibly a first-person narrative, I felt detached from the narrator.

Partly the detachment stems from the fact that the story is told in flashback, and since a good deal of it the narrator couldn’t realistically know (the history of his parents & grandparents), he has to be making it up based on what he does know. So you have a doubly fictional narrative, if that makes sense.

Also, the narrator is 41 as he’s telling the story, but the story essentially ends when he’s a teenager—aside from a brief “and this is what’s happened since then” bit at the end. So there’s that lack of immediacy too.

I do think that this detachment was intentional, that the story was meant to have a sort of clinical feel to it, and not just in the overtly with the biology “lessons,” but also in the overall treatment. And I do think the tone suited the narrator. Still…

The tone almost seemed at odd with the frothy multi-generational saga and many over-the-top (more farcical than melodramatic) plot developments. Almost like some dude in a lab coat narrating in a monotone while wacky hijinx ensue on the other side of a one-way window. (Which is not all that far off from what actually happens…)

And yet, I can’t say that this clash wasn’t intentional. It’s quite possible that it was. I’m just not sure that it entirely works.

Then again, it could be that I’m just leaning toward more focused stories these days and this is a little too “epic” for my current taste.