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The Virgin Suicides | Jeffery Eugenides | Reviewed by Ria

The Virgin Suicides
“The girls took into their own hands decisions better left to God. They became too powerful to live among us, too self-concerned, too visionary, too blind.”

Set in the suburbs of 1970s America, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of the lives and losses of the Lisbon family over the course of 13 months. I say the lives and losses, as the novel chronicles the suicides of the 5 Lisbon girls, Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, Cecilia, over the course of that year through the eyes of the neighbourhood boys who watched them fall. The Lisbon girls before their demise were a source of much fascination from those who watched them from behind closed blinds, beside them in high school classrooms and across hazy residential streets. They were ethereal beings, initially barely distinguishable from one another, and deeply sheltered from the world.

So what’s my verdict?

All in all only one quote sticks in my mind that really summarises the voyeuristic nature of the book

“In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name.”
Looking from the outside, in there’s no real way of knowing the real story of what really happened. In fact, the novel itself can almost be likened to a suburban myth or cautionary tale. There’s an odd sense of melancholy and nostalgia as past events are recounted, and the use of a narrator recounting the story allows the reader to view the story just as the boys did all those years are. As I mentioned we never hear the story from the viewpoint of the girl’s, so the reader is left with the same hollow sense of closure of the story as the narrator, which actually works really well for this novel. We too view the Lisbon girls as a mystery, right until the end, and are left wondering whether the events we’ve been told are even true.

In regards to subject matter, suicide is never an easy topic to approach, but Eugenides manages to capture both the tragedy of the event with sensitivity. Issues concerning mental health and illness, which was in it’s early stages of discussion in the 70s, are raised but are mostly secondary to the haunting and almost dreamlike glimpse into the highs and lows of adolescent life. It’s not an easy read, but the language alone is enticing enough to keep you reading until the end and can, at times, be deeply moving, haunting and thought provoking.

Reading Soundtrack:
Sisters Of The Moon: Fleetwood Mac; There's A World: Next To Normal; Young: The Paper Kites; Pawn Shop Blues: Lana Del Rey; Settle Down: The 1975; So Far Away: Carole King; Wings: Birdy; Playground Love: Air

For lovers of…'Girl, Interrupted', The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath & The Perks of being a Wallflower

This post was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.

*Photo (c) Ria Cagampang

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