July 'This year's most sumptuously enjoyable book' (Sunday Times Book of the Year)
We read this month Middlesex written by Jeffrey Eugenides, a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction.
"I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974."
This transatlantic epic is both a biological journey and a geographical journey, plus a journey of identity for both Calliope and Cal, and therefore in places can seem long and tedious but all the description gels together as the novel unfolds and quickens from Book three onwards. A Hermaphrodite, Callie and Cal challenge us to respond to them, exploring our own position on gender politics.
An Oprah Book which you can find on her website, with her interview with Jeffrey and readers reviews on the book.
Overall everyone enjoyed the book and found the questions helpful in guiding you to a full explanation of the books theme.
Historically set first in the Greek / Turkish War, Lefty and Desdemona (brother and sister and third cousins) embark on a journey away from their village to America, and so does the recalcitrant gene, for on the journey Lefty and Desdemona become husband and wife, making a recessive gene likely to appear.
In America Lefty first works for a car company and later his own 'Speakeasy'. Desdemona in search of work ventures downtown to the Black ghetto, to work with her beloved silk worms, a symbol of female jurisdiction (traditional matriarchy) against the backdrop of masculine America (patriarchy) with its cars as extended sexual attributes. They have a son Milton and a daughter Zoe. Milton marries his cousin Tess and the gene begins its ride, with one mutation apeice, misssing Chapter Eleven and appearing in Calliope (a Greek Muse). The Greek myths, along with modern thoughts are important symbols guiding us into the pysche of foreign immigrants settling into a new country, what they bring with them and how it reacts with the new. The book also allows us glimpses of American culture from its 'Bracelet Girls' down to the rioting Blacks and all colours and creeds along the way.
We found that we all learnt something new about biology and nature. How nature and nurture are still contested debates and the reasons why. We found that Milton's cufflinks symbolises the story in both its tragic and comic forms and wondered on the lives of transgendered people today.
Our group would recommend this book to others
Our group read The Road by Cormac McCarthy a post apocalyptic book with hardly any punctuation. Another journey but his time through the silence of the falling grey snow. A journey for the father and son who have no names, which usually means that you, the reader do not become so intimate with the protagonists, not so here, for you are urging them on all the way across America to the coast. you are sittting on the edge of your seat hoping in desperation that nothing bad happens to them and smile when something good happens for them.
Only now do the old virtues of love, loyalty and faith have any meaning and differientiates you as human, from the animalistic behaviour of other survivors.
Some times the only sound is the fathers coughing, or the dangerous sound of a lorry, bringing misery to all it ensnares.
You recall the memories of your time as a child on the beach with your parents and the joy you had collecting shells.But you also feel the urgency as the father collects clothing etc that will keep them alive from the abandoned boat washed up on the beach, that in other circumstances might have aided them to escape to another country better off, but in this scenario there is nowhere to go, death is the only escape.
We all enjoyed this book, a pacey, easy read, that does not reflect the depth and magnitude of the story. McCarthy gives it all, joy and despair, life and death. The boy (a new messiah) giving hope to humanity surviving.
Group Reading: The Once and Future King
8 years ago