Thursday, October 25, 2012

Audiobook Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Title: Middlesex
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Narrator: Kristoffer Tabori
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 21 hours, 15 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
"I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license...records my first name simply as Cal." 
So begins the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City, and the race riots of l967, before they move out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Middlesex is a story about Calliope, who was raised female, but turns out to actually be a male. Told from a first person perspective, this story spans three generations of the Stephanides' family and is absolutely engaging. The prose is beautiful, the characters are a joy to get to know, and I love Cal's personality. It shines through the narration and almost gives a better picture of who Cal is than the story does. (This isn't a bad thing.) I truly enjoyed listening to this novel and liked it far more than I expected I would.

I did think that it was overly long. On the one hand, I loved getting all the background information about Cal's parents and grandparents. But I really do think it took up far too much time. One of my favorite things about this book was the depth Eugenides gave to story and characters; however, some of the things about Cal's parents and grandparents just didn't seem important to the overall story. This frustrated me, because while interesting, I still wanted to get to the point of the story: Cal.

When the time came for Cal's story, I was completely engrossed. His search for identity is dramatic and terrifying in all the ways it should be. And I LOVED the romance between him and "The Object." I thought that was a brilliant story to add to the larger narrative. Like Cal, I found myself wishing that I knew what happened to her.

I can see why this audiobook has won awards -- it is fantastic. Tabori puts life and vitality into the story and every character's dialogue. I even enjoyed the music tracks! I'm not usually the sort of person who likes music in her audiobooks, but I think that the way it was done in Middlesex was perfect. It wasn't there all the time, and it was subtly done. It helped to shift the tone between different parts of the story, which I found clever. While I don't think Middlesex would be any less good in print, the audiobook is certainly a pleasure to listen to, even considering its length.