Rating: 4/5 stars
Number of Pages: 249
Suitable for Fans of: Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, modern classics
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.
“Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she’d fly.”
A reminiscence of childhood innocence, The Virgin Suicides explores the mystery surrounding teenage suicide, told from the perspective of neighbourhood boys 20 years after the incident.
This being his début novel, Eugenides writes in a modern-classical fashion: long, swooping sentences; figurative language; poetic tendencies, and a flowing feel. Personally, this isn’t my preferred writing style – for I commonly feel as though it acts as a prevention to fast-paced action, and instead ensures the book is very lethargic, and is read slowly. However, having said that and because The Virgin Suicides is a rather nostalgic novel, this method instead makes it so that one becomes much more thoughtful when reading. This isn’t the book to race through, and it isn’t a book that will bury its hooks in you and prevent you putting it down. No, this book is slow and thought-provoking, and it works perfectly for the subject matter.
Likewise, this plot – despite the book being named for the Lisbon Girls – is also nostalgic. In my opinion, the title and synopsis make it so that this book appears to tell the story of 5 suicidal sisters. It doesn’t. Instead, it tells the story of a group of boys, 20 years after the suicides, who are yet to work out why the girls committed suicide. Frankly, I was a little disappointed that this wasn’t a 3rd person perspective on the Lisbon household, yet I grew to like the group of boys who instead told the story. One never discovers exactly who the narrator is – he is a nameless male who is as infatuated with the Lisbon girls as his friends are. The book is told from a 1st person perspective, but, instead of ‘I’, ‘we’ is used. This offers a more ambiguous feel to who is telling the story, adding to the mystery, and allowing the book to differ from many of its kind.
In terms of characters, it is very difficult to pinpoint the singular attribute each of the 5 sisters, due to the fact that the narrator struggles to differentiate them himself. Thus, one cannot form an opinion of any of the girls separately, which, I believe, works well; this isn’t a story about the 5 girls separately, but instead one told of them collectively. Having little information of the girls made it feel as though we were one of the neighbourhood boys who wanted to discover more, but enevr could. The girls are: Cecelia, Lux, Mary, Therese, and Bonnie. The order of age is never stated, nor are the ages explicitly stated by the end of the book, and by the night of the suicides.
In a nut shell, The Virgin Suicides is, if anything, a coming-of-age story, delving into the exploration of what pushes people to suicide, especially those so young. Whilst it didn’t keep me hooked or wanting more, I did enjoy this book, and entirely respect Eugenides writing, thus awarding his début novel 4/5 stars.
Thanks for reading!