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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
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The Virgin Suicides (original 1993; edition 1994)

by Jeffrey Eugenides

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,848153340 (3.81)1 / 291
Member:chevrefeuille
Title:The Virgin Suicides
Authors:Jeffrey Eugenides
Info:Grand Central Publishing (1994), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:death, suicide, american, mi, 1970's, fiction, pb, mooched, outstanding

Work details

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (1993)

  1. 40
    The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (readerbabe1984, RosyLibrarian)
  2. 62
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: share the same exquisite sense of setting: boring, but not terrible suburban America, second half of last century.
  3. 10
    White Oleander by Janet Fitch (RosyLibrarian)
  4. 00
    Practical Jean by Trevor Cole (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  5. 00
    The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard (BookshelfMonstrosity)
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    See How Small: A Novel by Scott Blackwood (BookshelfMonstrosity)
  7. 00
    Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote (weener)
    weener: Both books with a srong sense of setting, with a sense of foreboding and decay.
  8. 00
    Liars and Saints by Maile Meloy (freddlerabbit)
    freddlerabbit: The styles and narrative perspectives of these two books remind me strongly of one another.
  9. 00
    Quiet Chaos by Sandro Veronesi (bookmomo)
    bookmomo: Both original and intriguing stories about loss and grieving.
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    Whores on the Hill by Colleen Curran (jbarry)
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    Paint It Black by Janet Fitch (jbarry)
  12. 02
    We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (ainsleytewce)
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English (145)  Dutch (3)  German (1)  Italian (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  All languages (152)
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Oh me oh my what a marvelously different book. So I think that I am becoming a really big Eugenides fan. His ability to write about the most uncommon topics (a family of suicidal sisters? hermaphrodites?--the man has a good imagination)...and his storytelling is unique as well.

This story, uniquely enough, is told by a narrator who never really identifies himself, but only says that "we" (he and his friends?) were obsessed with the Lisbon girls. He tells the story of how after one sister kills herself, the entire family sort of retreats from life...until the other sisters do so as well.

The thing I appreciate about this book about suicide is that during the entire thing as the reader I am wondering "WHY!? Why did they do it?!" But in the end, the narrator has no answer. Was it bravery? Cowardice? Not a clue. For me this makes it real, which I find better than him coming up with an answer that might have appeased my curiosity...but left me critical of the entire book. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Oh me oh my what a marvelously different book. So I think that I am becoming a really big Eugenides fan. His ability to write about the most uncommon topics (a family of suicidal sisters? hermaphrodites?--the man has a good imagination)...and his storytelling is unique as well.

This story, uniquely enough, is told by a narrator who never really identifies himself, but only says that "we" (he and his friends?) were obsessed with the Lisbon girls. He tells the story of how after one sister kills herself, the entire family sort of retreats from life...until the other sisters do so as well.

The thing I appreciate about this book about suicide is that during the entire thing as the reader I am wondering "WHY!? Why did they do it?!" But in the end, the narrator has no answer. Was it bravery? Cowardice? Not a clue. For me this makes it real, which I find better than him coming up with an answer that might have appeased my curiosity...but left me critical of the entire book. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
Over a year in the early 1970s, the five teenage Lisbon sisters commit suicide, leaving an indelible scar on the close-knit Michigan community where they live. Twenty years later, the unnamed narrator, one of a group of young men besotted with the Lisbons, tries to give an account of those tragic events. His intention is to present an objective report, complete with “exhibits” and testimonies. The prose however is anything but detached or scientific – it often burns with a febrile, poetic intensity. The very normal suburban setting becomes the backdrop for a surreal tale which veers from gothic tragedy to dark comedy. These incongruities invite an allegorical reading – the Lisbons as metaphors for the boys’ coming of age and sexual awakening, the novel itself as an unbearably nostagic elegy for a past which seems just beyond reach and yet will never come back. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Jun 22, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

The girls just want to live

I first got acquainted with the writer through his Pulitzer winner, Middlesex, so I am pretty much familiar with his terrain. It’s an understatement that I’m looking forward to reading his début novel, The Virgin Suicides, which is about the story of five sisters who committed mass you-know-what. I’ve seen the film adaptation of this before reading, even before knowing about the literary prowess of Eugenides. Despite this familiarity, I still surprised for feeling so tense at each turn of the page, even up to the last.

The title pretty much gives away the premise of the book. It’s about the five Lisbon sisters who commit suicide. First, it was Cecilia (13), and then her sisters Therese (17), Mary (16), Bonnie (15), and Lux (14) followed their youngest sister’s act. One teenage suicide is shocking enough, what more if it were four teenage girls, four sisters, four suicide cases in one night?

Is that a spoiler? Perhaps, but you’ll soon read about it at the opening line of the novel. The narrators talk about the morning the girls are found with a short description of how they claimed their lives. And after that what? They, the narrating boys who are irresistibly drawn towards the girls, relate their slowly disintegrating images and memories of the Lisbon girls.

It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.

That, I must say, is one of the most unforgettable last sentences that I ever read. A little discrepancy: my edition does not have the last phrase (and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together), which is a bummer, but which gives me a reason to buy a new edition and reread the novel. It’s worth rereading it; I’ve read a local writer’s comment on it, saying that the novel is incandescent. If one were to highlight its beautiful sentences, one would end up highlighting the entire book.

Speaking of highlighting, the boys should have been faster and more diligent in highlighting every moment of the girls’ lives, for their memory of them is fast fading. Throughout the novel, the boys are persistently trying to recapture images of the girls, only to come up with blurry visions of them. They reconstruct the girls’ lives with evidences and reminiscences collected from garbage piles to people who barely had connections with the Lisbons. But however hard they try, they fail, for what they have of the girls is slowly, painfully slipping from their grip.

I meant that literally because all they have are random stuff that the girls owned when they were still alive: diaries, photographs, lipstick, bras, etc. And these, like any other object, are subject to the damage that the long and unnoticed passing of time can wreak on them. As these objects decay, so do their vision of the sisters, which is merely that: an impenetrable picture devoid of what the girls think and feel.

How can they give us an account of the girls’ lives if they have never been able to reach out to them? Could they be loyal to what they feel for the girls if with each perusal of the surviving “exhibits,” the magic is bit by bit diminished? Yes, they kept vigilant watch of the girls’ activities in their bedrooms night after night, especially after that incident when the four surviving girls were imprisoned in their home by the severe and overbearing Mrs. Lisbon, the mother. But is that enough?

So which is more tragic: the group suicide of the girls, or the obsession of the boys with the girls, who have almost nothing to do with them, and who are still, twenty to thirty years later, still haunted by their effects on them? Is single instantaneous loss worse than a gradual and prolonged one?

After Cecilia’s death, life did not stop. The parents both addressed and repressed the event. The school attempted to ease, in vain, the girls’ pain. The media ignored the mediocre suicide of a thirteen-year-old. The boys watched them with renewed curiosity. The Lisbon sisters went to school. They remarked that they just want to live, if people will allow them. And yet.

In that town where people went about their mundane routines, the girls are quickly forgotten. The boys kept them in their hearts. And as for myself, I feel this unease, creeping under my skin, wondering why why why, although really, that is not the point of it, but still, one cannot help asking them.

And my Lisbon girls (reading buddies):

Lynai
Monique
Maria
Kwesi ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
The debut novel by Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the 1970s and how this community is deeply affected by the suicides of the five Lisbon sisters. The narration is uniquely in the first-person plural: a group of teenage boys infatuated by the sisters and mesmerised by their deaths.

Eugenides richly describes the story and thus allows the reader to fully absorb themselves into the lives of this community and become similarly obsessed with the mysterious Lisbon girls.

The story itself is rich and creepy, the slow horror of the inevitable suicides gradually grows on the reader even as they experience along with the boys the increased carefree attitude the girls have.

A moving story of growing up, life, love, and death, this is a perfect example of mythology building - how the suicides affected the boys particularly as they try to understand the mystery. For even when adults, the boys are still captivated by the deaths of the Lisbon girls, whose hold transcends the novel itself and captivates the reader also. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 145 (next | show all)
Mr. Eugenides is blessed with the storyteller's most magical gift, the ability to transform the mundane into the extraordinary.
added by stephmo | editNew York Times, Suzanne Berne (Apr 25, 1993)
 
Adopting a tone simultaneously elegiac and loony, The Virgin Suicides takes the dark stuff of Greek tragedy and reworks it into an eccentric, mesmerizing, frequently hilarious American fantasy about the tyranny of unrequited love, and the unknowable heart of every family on earth — but especially the family next door.
 

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Jeffrey Eugenidesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Landrum, NickNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide -- it was Mary this time, and the sleeping pills, like Therese -- the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope.
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Obviously, Doctor… you’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.
They knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all.
The girls were right in choosing to love Trip, because he was the only boy who could keep his mouth shut.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0446670251, Paperback)

Juxtaposing the most common and the most gothic, the humorous and the tragic, author Jeffrey Eugenides creates a vivid and compelling portrait of youth and lost innocence. He takes us back to the elm-lined streets of suburbia in the seventies, and introduces us to the men whose lives have been forever changed by their fierce, awkward obsession with five doomed sisters: brainy Therese, fastidious Mary, ascetic Bonnie, libertine Lux, and pale, saintly Cecilia, whose spectacular demise inaugurates "the year of the suicides." This is the debut novel that caused a sensation and won immediate acclaim from the critics-a tender, wickedly funny tale of love and terror, sex and suicide, memory and imagination.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The narrator and his friends piece together the events that led up to the suicides of the Lisbon girls--brainy Therese, fastidious Mary, ascetic Bonnie, libertine Lux, and saintly Cecilia.

(summary from another edition)

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