27 March 2012

Book Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (audio)

Picked this audio book up at a sale about one month ago and I finished listening to this book on my way to Boston yesterday and it was very engrossing. I had read The Marriage Plot last year, and while I loved the writing, I wasn't mush enamored with the story line, but I thought perhaps with incest and trans-gender as two hot points that Middlesex might be different.

I loved Eugenides' narration, looping between the present and the past and back again, like he's just remembered something important that he forgot to tell you before and has to interject it before continuing on.  It felt like very natural storytelling that way.

It's so funny what I thought this book was about before I picked it up, and how very different the end product is (for starters, I had thought the name came from the New England town where it was set). You hear "incest" and immediately you think something sensationalized, but that wasn't it at all.  Instead, Eugenides tells a good, old-fashioned three-generational saga starting and ending in the old world, but with most of it in Detroit, which turns out to be a fantastic microcosm of America.  The incest and the hermaphroditism are instrumental in the lives of the characters, but in terms of the overall story arc, they play second fiddle to the characters themselves.

It's too bad that I was listening to this book, because there were several moments where, if I had been reading, I would have dog-eared the passages and excerpted them here.  Eugenides is a good stylist, and I definitely like this book better than the The Marriage Plot, which was my first introduction to his work.  The audio itself won the Audie Award for unabridged productions the year it came out, and while I think the reader, Kristoffer Tabori, was good, I'm a little surprised that it surpassed every other audio production that year.  For starters, there were random interludes of music, sometimes overplaying over the text to the point it was hard to hear the reader.  Yes, the reader is good, and he does voices pretty well (weak on the women, but I find that's true of most readers, that they're weak on the other gender).  But I am not sure that this book would even make my Top Ten audio listening experiences. 


  1. Aw, I like that you liked the story at least, if not the person reading it! I love Middlesex so so much! :)

  2. So glad I saw this! I read The Marriage Plot and was conflicted about it - I hated the whole trek to India spiritual quest aspect - but I like his style too.
    I find the incest and hermaphrodite factor a bit of a turnoff but I will have to soldier on and read it based on your review. If it's the same Kristoffer Tabori, I remember him as a wonderful young actor who did a televised Shakespeare or something of that ilk in the 70s or 80's but never really went anywhere. Pity!


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