The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 250

My rating: ★★★★

I read The Virgin Suicides from cover to cover in a matter of hours. The tale was grippingly told several years after the book’s incident, through the voice of a group of neighbouring, then teen-aged boys. Their somewhat disturbing obsession with a group of sisters on their street helped them discover pieces of the mystery surrounding the girls’ eventual deaths.

The story centres on the sad breakdown of the Lisbon family after one of five sisters tries and then succeeds, to end her life one summer in the ’70’s. The remaining four girls become progressively isolated within their home, often coming outdoors only in the dead of night, prisoners in their own house at the hands of their (understandably) overprotective parents. Their only contact with the outside world is through a ham radio, conversation via record-playing on the telephone and strange light messages to the boys, including a final message that alerts the boys to their planned ‘escape’.

The style in which it was written was as though a report was being delivered. It was open, ‘chatty’ even, full of the character of the narrators, even though we had no clear image of what they looked like or even which of them were telling the story. Their fascination with the Lisbon sisters translated so that I, too, became fascinated. Throughout, I was given the impression that these girls might be saved, purely because the narrator once believed as much.

Although this never was to be, the ending was not disappointing or dissatisfying. Sad though it was, it was inevitable that these girls, who were already dead inside–for whatever reason–would meet their premature end.

 

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The Virgin Suicides

 

The haunting, humorous and tender story of the brief lives of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, The Virgin Suicides, now a major film, is Jeffrey Eugenides’s classic debut novel. The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.