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The Virgin Suicides

A book by Jeffrey Eugenides

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"You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets."

  • Dec 16, 2009
Not only does Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides have an intriguing title, but a movie is based on the provocative tale of the tragic- and unpredictable- suicides of five teenaged sisters in early 1970s Detroit over a period of one year. When the smoke clears, the Lisbon's are left grieving the loss of daughter Cecilia, 13, Bonnie, 15, Lux, 14, Mary, 16, and Therese, 17. The story is told from the perspective of a group of neighborhood boys, themselves trapped in the ambiguity of adolescence, as they observe, transfixed by the shocking events than unfold at the Lisbon home. EMTs that arrive to save Cecilia from her first attempt (slashing her wrists in the bath tub) return once more with no hope of saving the girl who is impaled on a fence after jumping to her death the night of a staid party.

Eugenides' approach is rhythmic and fluid, in sharp contrast to the nightmare that is plaguing the Lisbon home, including the resignation of Mr. Lisbon, a high school math teacher. What kind of teacher is this man who cannot control events in his own household? Certainly, the testosterone-riddled voices of the adolescent narrators contain no more truth than the idle speculations of shocked parents as the suicides continue. Virgins all, save one, only the harsh music of teenaged angst intrudes, a note of disharmony in this surreal landscape, but even that is annihilated by a vigilant mother. This is a family suffering from fatal melancholy, certainly an anomaly, but so bizarre that the teenaged boys can only watch in stupefied fascination. It is the boys' reactions to this year-long drama that create the weight of the story, balanced against the surreal atmosphere in the Lisbon home.

Yet for all the acclaim and the occasional bursts of poetic prose, I found this novel tedious, less involving with each page, regardless of the shocking content. Where others have found a rich reading experience, I have failed to enjoy the enthusiasm of most reviewers. The title is so rich with possibilities and the actual reading of the novel so lackluster, the drone of hearsay, diary entries, interviews and observations. Albeit a paean to the troubled years of adolescence, I cannot appreciate the author's style or content. Luan Gaines/2009.

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More The Virgin Suicides: A Novel reviews
review by . June 30, 2010
The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides is an amazingly insightful glimpse into a variety of different worlds and meanings. As readers you are confronted with the blossoming of suburbia, coping mechanisms, tragedy in a modern world, the exaltation of the young woman, adulthood, childhood, sociopolitical commentaries, and an interweaving of countless other narratives. Eugenides effortlessly constructs a suburban bubble in which the ideal, all-American lifestyle is lived and that tragedy …
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
Horrible, don`t waste your time reading this. There is a lot of better books on the list!
Quick Tip by . July 08, 2010
Did not like this book. I am still trying to understand why I read it!
Quick Tip by . July 01, 2010
Such a beautifully written book.
review by . June 28, 2009
From 2005 (paperback) I saw this movie back in October and I didn't care for it, so I moved this book up my reading list... I'm still disturbed by the entire story and I wish we had found out a little more of the "why", but I guess that would have made it unrealistic to me, huh? I mean, do we ever know WHY someone kills themselves? Especially if we are on the outside looking in, which is what the narrators are - just school friends of the girls.    I will say this - the book …
review by . November 19, 2007
If one of the five Lisbon sisters was crazy, it had to be Cecilia, the youngest. At least that's what all the neighborhood boys thought when she proved them right by killing herself during the first party that the sisters had ever been allowed to host. What none of the boys expected at the time was that just one year later all four of Cecilia's older sisters would also be dead, victims of their own bizarre suicides.     Set in 1970s Michigan, The Virgin Suicides is the tragic …
About the reviewer
Luan Gaines ()
Ranked #108
An artist/writer, I have traveled the world, walked on the moon and learned the complicated language of humanity, the enormity of the universe... all through the written word. My first passport was a … more
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Eugenides's tantalizing, macabre first novel begins with a suicide, the first of the five bizarre deaths of the teenage daughters in the Lisbon family; the rest of the work, set in the author's native Michigan in the early 1970s, is a backward-looking quest as the male narrator and his nosy, horny pals describe how they strove to understand the odd clan of this first chapter, which appeared in the Paris Review , where it won the 1991 Aga Khan Prize for fiction. The sensationalism of the subject matter (based loosely on a factual account) may be off-putting to some readers, but Eugenides's voice is so fresh and compelling, his powers of observation so startling and acute, that most will be mesmerized. The title derives from a song by the fictional rock band Cruel Crux, a favorite of the Lisbon daughter Lux--who, unlike her sisters Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Cecilia, is anything but a virgin by the tale's end. Her mother forces Lux to burn the album along with others she considers dangerously provocative. Mr. Lisbon, a mild-mannered high school math teacher, is driven to resign by parents who believe his control of their children may be as deficient as his control of his own brood. Eugenides risks sounding sophomoric in his attempt to convey the immaturity of high-school boys; while initially somewhat discomfiting, the narrator's voice (representing the collective memories of the group) acquires the ring of authenticity. The author is equally convincing when ...
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Books, Fiction, Jeffrey Eugenides


ISBN-10: 0446670251
ISBN-13: 978-0446670258
Author: Jeffrey Eugenides
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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