Some thoughts on The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

“Everyone we spoke to dated the demise of our neighbourhood from the suicides of the Lisbon girls. Though at the first people blamed them, gradually a sea of change took place, so the girls were not seen as scapegoats but as seers.”

Happy August! So this is the first book I’ve read from the 19 Quintessential Books of the 90’s list, but not my first by Eugenides. I read Middlesex a few years ago, not that it really matters since the style of the two novels are so disparate it may as well have been a completely different author.

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Middlesex seems to have been more influenced by the Homeric epics. The narrator calls on the holy muse, while in this novel there is more of a greek drama chorus effect.

The novel is set in the 70’s but was published in 1993 and then a film adaption, directed by Sofia Coppola, was released 1999.

The Virgin Suicides is probably the most macabre coming of age novel I’ve ever read. Eugenides uses the first person plural, a collective voice of older men looking back at their childhood trying, and through the lens of various clues and interviews, to uncover the reason/reasons for the suicides of the Lisbon sisters.

It’s like heavily populated painting that doesn’t bother with the features with each character. For the most part the sisters are spoken of collectively, like a single entity , mostly because boys/men “couldn’t fathom at all.”

It’s kind of like a Greek drama where everybody knew what was going to happen, but still replayed the drama through their retelling of the events. The difference is that lesson seemed to be hidden, and no one truly knew what to make of the suicides and so “the liberal media”, the neighborhood gossips, and the collective narrators all interpreted the events differently, pointing fingers in different directions.

“Psychologists agree that adolescence is much more fraught with pressures and complexities than years past. Often, in today’s world, the extended childhood that American life has bestowed on its young turns out to be a wasteland, where the adolescent feels cut off from both childhood and adulthood. Self expression can be frustrated.”

The only sister that stood out was the object of school boy fantasies, Lux.

“Lux’s brief unions were clandestine. They sprouted in the dead time of study halls, bloomed on the way to the drinking fountain, and were consummated in the hot box above the auditorium, amid uncomfortable theatrical lights and cables.”

I both enjoyed and was bothered by the story. For me the perspective was like zoomed out lens, and I kept waiting for it to zoom in on particular speaker, but I got used to it eventually.

Image Credit: GoodReads

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3 Responses to Some thoughts on The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

  1. I read this a number of years ago and really enjoyed it. If I remember correctly, I read it in one day.

  2. cellenbogen says:

    I liked Middlesex and some aspects of The Marriage Plot. I’ll get to this at some point.

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