“The Virgin Suicides” is a small book that contains so much. One of those books that are not really about what they’re about – but rather use the story to subtly say something about life. And in this case death as well.
The book is about the 5 Lisbon girls and the boys that adore them.The story begins when the youngest Lisbon sister attempts suicide – something inexplicable for her surroundings, yet strangely drawing.
Quite unusually, the story is told from the first person plural point of view of the anonymous neighbourhood boys that observe and watch the teenage Lisbon sisters, who are the center of the story. From this distant, yet very emotional point of view, the reader discovers the strange lives of the beautiful Lisbon sisters, who should be average, happy teenage girls, but somehow are something different and alien.
I find it quite difficult to write this review, as it’s hard to put into words exactly why this book was so good. I guess in the end, it’s the fact that it touched me very much – it’s depressing and sweet and full of the “I don’t really know what’s going on”-feeling that I think everybody has experienced in their lives, especially as teens.
Eugenides writes very well and although he might seem a bit heavy-handed with the descriptions when you first start to read, the flow of his language – its almost poetic quality – is really lovely. The unusual narrative voice of the boys works surprisingly well and manages a balance between the yearning teenage boys and the melancholy middle-aged men. And despite being a 30-something year old woman, I felt like a part of the “us” that watched and was desperately fascinated by the Lisbon girls – while all along having perhaps a much better idea of what “happened” to the girls, as someone who was once a teenage girl myself.
While most teenage girls thankfully never end up in the situation the Lisbon girls do, I think the intangible and desperate feeling they seem to experience and live through in different ways, is something that most teenage girls have experienced. And I personally still have no words for that feeling, but I am humbled by Eugenides’ ability to make this book resonate that feeling in me still…
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides; published in 2011 by Bloomsbury (first published 1993)