The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides

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 siste...

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Title:The Virgin Suicides
Author:Jeffrey Eugenides
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Edition Language:English

The Virgin Suicides Reviews

  • Matt

    suicide isn't the happiest of topics. the suicides of five sisters is even less pleasant. how do you recommend a book to someone on such a grim topic? easy: just read it.

    what eugenides does so well is capture the mystery of secluded sisters, as seen through the eyes of neighborhood boys. this is important in reading the novel. it's not necessarily the lisbon sisters' story, but rather the boys' story, and how the suicides affected them all the way into adulthood (the boys are now men and they r

    suicide isn't the happiest of topics. the suicides of five sisters is even less pleasant. how do you recommend a book to someone on such a grim topic? easy: just read it.

    what eugenides does so well is capture the mystery of secluded sisters, as seen through the eyes of neighborhood boys. this is important in reading the novel. it's not necessarily the lisbon sisters' story, but rather the boys' story, and how the suicides affected them all the way into adulthood (the boys are now men and they retell their story). they've never fully recovered from the events of that year, as evidenced by the carefully catalogued and numbered evidence they've collected over the years (faded photographs, scraps of paper, newspaper clippings, etc). it's as though their growth and development from boys to men has been permanently stunted, and it's something of a tragedy to read. euginedes' use of a vague narrator allows the reader to actively participate in the mystery and confusion as the boys try to come to terms with the deaths. the narrator(s) alway refer to themselves as "we," and never "i," drawing the reader in with them. we don't know who's speaking. it could be any of 10-12 boys. it's a particularly useful way of letting the reader experience the same gamut of emotions as the boys. by the end of the book i was every bit affected the same way the boys were and are.

    beyond the subject of suicide, there's also some very insightful social commentary on how death (particularly suicides) affect not only specific individuals, but communities as well. the narrator(s), for example, notice how all the leaves went unraked during the fall after the first four sisters kill themselves. there's also mention about a day of mourning and an assembly at school, and one boy comments how he felt like they were supposed to feel badly for everything that ever happened...ever. how do adults explain suicide to children? eugenides expertly taps into what it's like to try to grapple with and understand something completely beyond understanding. how do we process suicide and death? can we? should we? i don't think it's beyond reason to make comparisons to 'hamlet' or other literature where 'ghosts' figure prominently. for all intents and purposes, these men are still boys under the spell of five ghosts. it's a thought-provoking novel and one that stays with the reader well after closing its pages, just as the lisbon sisters still haunt the memory of the neighborhood boys.

    perhaps the most impressive aspect of the novel is the prose itself. mr. eugenides can write. my copy of the book is nearly worn out from all the markings i've made. there are passages that made me jump off my bed and shout at the sky. his prose is as shiny as a newly minted coin. it's as though every word were precisely chosen, every sentence carefully constructed (and i imagine they were). the novel reminds the reader of the printed word's power. i don't know how much eugenides got for his soul (for surely there was *some* sort of bargain with the devil), but i hope it was a hefty sum.

    unfortunately quality literature seems to be in short supply these days. however, i think it's safe to say that after two books jeffrey eugenides has joined a gradually declining crop of truly great, living, american authors (roth, delillo, morrison, updike, among a few others) and is well on his way to an illustrious, prolific, literary career.

    this is one of the few books i read more than once. each time i read it i hope to glean some insight into the 'why' of suicide, yet knowning it will never be so. so i'll just keep reading it over and over and try to understand, just as the boys continue to congregate, go over the evidence, seek closure and try to become men.

  • Debbie Petersen

    Where to begin. I have read some of the reviews of others who did not care for or get this book. I admit that the plot/storyline, though unique, is not what makes this story great--it's the prose. The writing is luminous and reads more like poetry than a novel. We don't even know exactly who the narrators are--it is narrated in first person plural and the name and even number of narrators is left vague. Eugenides uses metaphor to describe the deaths of the sisters as the disintegration of a subu

    Where to begin. I have read some of the reviews of others who did not care for or get this book. I admit that the plot/storyline, though unique, is not what makes this story great--it's the prose. The writing is luminous and reads more like poetry than a novel. We don't even know exactly who the narrators are--it is narrated in first person plural and the name and even number of narrators is left vague. Eugenides uses metaphor to describe the deaths of the sisters as the disintegration of a suburban neighborhood--the trees are being cut down because of the threat of Dutch Elm disease; there are dying flies everywhere that are described by the first sister to commit suicide as not even having time to eat before their lives are over. There are so many themes in the story--going through the layers is akin to peeling an onion. The writing is so lovely that it induces a dreamlike state in the reader. Everything is described so perfectly that you can not only see clearly what is being described, but smell the various smells and recall with clarity everything from that time period. Eugenides did not throw this book together; in my mind's eye I see him sitting at his desk turning each phrase over and over in his hands until he gets it exactly right. Yet, the writing is not strained at all--in fact, it seems to have flowed effortlessly from his pen. This is a gifted writer whose work will be read for generations to come, long after Eat, Pray, Gag is in the remainder pile. Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, Robert James Waller, John Grisham, read this and weep. To this list I add myself, since I would give anything to be able to write half as well as Eugenides. As for those who look for a conventional plot line like all of the other books out there and do not find it (why EXACTLY did the girls kill themselves?) In the real world, not everything in life can be explained.

    I loved the book so much that I immediately rented the movie. It was awful, with the exception of James Wood who nailed the part of the father beautifully.

  • Sara Cantador

    Tenía ganas de dejar un poco de lado la literatura juvenil, así que decidí coger esta novela que llevaba un tiempo llamándome desde mis estanterías. Qué sorpresa que se haya convertido en uno de los mejores libros que he leído, pero pocos tienen la magia de la que bien puede alardear esta novela.

    Si tuviera que describir

    con una palabra, ésa sería sin duda "intensa". No sé si fue cosa de la narración, o la necesidad de conocer qué desencadenó la secuencia de suicidios de

    Tenía ganas de dejar un poco de lado la literatura juvenil, así que decidí coger esta novela que llevaba un tiempo llamándome desde mis estanterías. Qué sorpresa que se haya convertido en uno de los mejores libros que he leído, pero pocos tienen la magia de la que bien puede alardear esta novela.

    Si tuviera que describir

    con una palabra, ésa sería sin duda "intensa". No sé si fue cosa de la narración, o la necesidad de conocer qué desencadenó la secuencia de suicidios de las hermanas Lisbon, y que además, a pesar de conocer el desenlace de antemano, lograra mantenerme en vilo en todo momento. Viviendo las vidas de este grupo de hermanas a través de diferentes pares de ojos, que terminan formando un caleidoscopio de las mismas. Un caleidoscopio además, gracias al cual acabé pensando que Bonnie, Therese, Mary, Lux y Cecilia eran reales, que las conocía de verdad y al mismo tiempo apenas sabía nada de ellas en absoluto. Como si sólo se narrara lo equivalente a la punta del iceberg, con un fondo tan profundo que se requerirían páginas y páginas para conocerlas realmente. Y es que así somos todos en realidad, ¿no?

    Me ha parecido desgarradora la forma de tratar el tema del control y la opresión familiares. De cómo los padres de estas jóvenes, que con toda la buena intención quieren llevarlas por "el buen camino", terminan vetando su felicidad y desarrollo como personas.

    Sin duda, es una obra maravillosa, profunda y muy cuidada, que si bien puede resultar algo confusa al principio (es difícil distinguir la línea que separa el pasado con los pensamientos del narrador, o incluso lo que se desarrolla en el presente), termina creando una atmósfera única y absorbente. Se consigue una transición desde esa confusión inicial, hasta una novela compleja y con un entramado mágico, que me atrapó por completo y me dejó sin palabras.

    Totalmente recomendado.

  • Fabian

    Wow, you knew that this guy was the real deal after all.

    I see this as a perfect segue to his masterpiece "Middlesex". It's simple, it's sad, it is capital I Intriguing. The first novel always announces the author's intentions for those that come next, and Eugenides loves the themes of adolescence in all its tragic shortcomings. The Lisbon girls are monoliths to the nameless suitors who do nothing else but speculate about them and become passionate voyeurs. They do nothing to save them; they only

    Wow, you knew that this guy was the real deal after all.

    I see this as a perfect segue to his masterpiece "Middlesex". It's simple, it's sad, it is capital I Intriguing. The first novel always announces the author's intentions for those that come next, and Eugenides loves the themes of adolescence in all its tragic shortcomings. The Lisbon girls are monoliths to the nameless suitors who do nothing else but speculate about them and become passionate voyeurs. They do nothing to save them; they only observe and obsess. I guess while girls become emblematic of sexual repression, the foolish boys become symbols of generic apathy and cowardice. It's a symbol of the times; a portrait of suburban un-happiness.

  • K.D. Absolutely

    For me, what makes this novel different from those that I’ve read so far is the narrator’s voice:

    and the brilliant way

    (born 1960) made use of it. Since the story is about 5 teenage sisters and the narrators were interested on them, readers presumed that they were narrating from the viewpoint of schoolboys with raging hormones and think of sex almost every hour of the day. Until the last sentence when Eugenides revealed that the narrators are already middle

    For me, what makes this novel different from those that I’ve read so far is the narrator’s voice:

    and the brilliant way

    (born 1960) made use of it. Since the story is about 5 teenage sisters and the narrators were interested on them, readers presumed that they were narrating from the viewpoint of schoolboys with raging hormones and think of sex almost every hour of the day. Until the last sentence when Eugenides revealed that the narrators are already middle-age men with

    . My perception of the story as a reader made a complete turnaround. Being a middle age man myself and having a teenager daughter, the last page upped the story’s impact on me.

    The collective voice of the narrators who are voyeurs of the Lisbon family oozes with

    (of being young and sexually curious) and

    (of being voyeurs who did not do anything to save the sisters). If you read this novel in a superficial manner, this is just about 5 young sisters (13-year-old

    , 14-year-old

    , 15-year-old

    , 16-year-old

    , and 17-year-old

    ) who killed themselves because of their very strict mother and workaholic submissive effeminate father. They probably lost all hopes of having a good future like finishing school after they were pulled out just because Lux missed the curfew or finding a rich man to marry since they were not allowed to go out anymore.

    But Eugenides, having an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University, knew better. It would have been too simple for a story to be all about that. In the narration, the boys said that the suicides were act of “selfishness” as the girls were at the brink of adulthood, pretty hence possible sexual preys. They fantasized about having sex with them and even kept with them the “exhibits” that even in their mid-lives still remind them of how they felt towards those pretty young things. The boys thought that they were innocent but the fact that they were watching the Lisbon house through their binoculars, they were communicating with them via songs played on the telephone, the girls were leaving notes posted on the bicycle wheels or in the mailboxes did not give them the inkling to help to prevent the eventual group suicides. They just watched and did nothing. In effect, the boys were the selfish ones and the guilt that permeates in them in their middle-age is what Eugenides, in my opinion, wants to communicate with this novel. Cecilia’s suicide forewarned the narrators. Forewarned the people of small town of GrossPointe, Michigan. Some paid attention: the priest, the social worker. But in the end those were just not enough. The Lisbon sisters committed suicide with the blood left on the hands of the boys and the whole town.

    And the creepiest thing there is that since Eugenides used "we" and "us" and realizing in the end that those narrators were not teenage kids but were middle-age men, gave me the feeling that I, now a middle-age man myself, was with them watching Lux making out with faceless boys and men on the rooftop making me equally guilty.

    For me, this is a sample of a novel that seems to be a simple story but very rich in terms of interpretation. It just made me think of my role as a father to my teenage daughter. How I should deal with her especially during those times when we misunderstand each other, she locks herself in her room and cry. Fatherhood is trial and error and they say that one has to only follow his heart and everything will turn out right in the end. I wish it is that simple. Not that our family has the suicidal gene running in our blood but I just have to more sensitive and not bury myself in my office work and books and hope that times like that will go away once she's 20 and no longer an adolescent.

    Now I have enough motivation to read Eugenides’ Pulitzer-winning novel

    . One hell of a writer.

  • Matthew

    I had to take some time after reading this and do some deep thinking before I could review. It is such an unusual story - good, but dark and full of nooks and crannies for skeletons and other vermin to hide. It is hard to say I enjoyed a story like this - that would be like saying I enjoyed a car wreck; intriguing, but lots of people and property were damaged in the process.

    One main thing I can say is I don't think I have seen the main story take as much of a back seat to the setting, the symbol

    I had to take some time after reading this and do some deep thinking before I could review. It is such an unusual story - good, but dark and full of nooks and crannies for skeletons and other vermin to hide. It is hard to say I enjoyed a story like this - that would be like saying I enjoyed a car wreck; intriguing, but lots of people and property were damaged in the process.

    One main thing I can say is I don't think I have seen the main story take as much of a back seat to the setting, the symbolism, and the side characters. The book is "The Virgin Suicides", but they might be the least important, as well as the most important, part of the book. Are you confused yet?

    Setting: The neighborhood, the houses, the tree house, the school. Description of buildings. The importance of a location. Certain windows serving as stages into the performance of people's lives. All very complex and interesting.

    Coated in muck: Throughout the book things are covered in dust, slime, dead bugs, etc. Everything is made to seem like it is coated, and a deeper truth is underneath. And, I think it is important that the "coating" is never pretty. Things aren't coated in sugar, or clouds, or pretty makeup. It is always foul, stinking, decaying, etc.

    Symbolism - As the story deteriorates, so do the structures and the people. Buildings decay. People become more and more unstable. Every element spirals into a gloomy miasma and it moves towards the ultimate sad climax.

    The boys - the boys in the story serving as narrators really kept making me think of Stand By Me or The Sandlot. Coming of age. Looking into other people's lives. Trying to figure things out while wrapped in the innocence of youth. It was a very intriguing approach to telling the story.

    I think that many will enjoy this. Just remember that it is dark and somewhat disturbing. Not something to read while looking for a pick me up!

  • Jen

    This book is like a preface, where the real book never feels like it begins. Endless foreshadowing mixed in with various teenage boy obsessions about what a home with five daughters must entail...boxes and boxes of tampons, etc. I couldn't wait for these girls to kill themselves just so the book would be over.

  • Linda

    I simply didn't get this book. I was so desperate to find hidden meaning in it, but there was nothing. Why waste so much paper and ink on something so overtly pretentious and so utterly meaningless? A group of oppressed sisters kill themselves after flirting with the neighborhood boys. How horrible that it happened in the middle of suburban America, where white picket fences are supposed to render such neighborhoods impermeable to tragic teenage death. In the end, all I got from this book was th

    I simply didn't get this book. I was so desperate to find hidden meaning in it, but there was nothing. Why waste so much paper and ink on something so overtly pretentious and so utterly meaningless? A group of oppressed sisters kill themselves after flirting with the neighborhood boys. How horrible that it happened in the middle of suburban America, where white picket fences are supposed to render such neighborhoods impermeable to tragic teenage death. In the end, all I got from this book was the fact that the girls were peculiar (and hello! at least one was not a virgin when she committed suicide), the boys were immature, the girls' parents were psychotic. Okay, sure, I get that there may have been metaphors and themes about the hypocrisy of middle America, oppressive religion, etc. etc., but I wasn't impressed. I saw Sofia Coppola's film afterward; no, it did not improve my understanding or appreciation of the film.

    I had read Middlesex by Eugenides and thought he was a genius. This book proved he is only an occasional genius. Sadness.

  • F

    So disappointed with this book.

    I do not understand why it is raved about so much I thought it was so shit.

    It was a quick read admitted but even so it bored the hell out of me.

    Couldnt get my head round the characters

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