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R&R 051 | The Virgin Suicides

Thank you frankie magazine for writing a bit on the blog about this project! ♥

I recently moved, so updates have been minimal, but I am picking up where I left off with this project starting today.

Jeffrey Eugenides
The Virgin Suicides
First published in: 1993
This edition: Bloomsbury, 2002
ISBN: 0-7475-6059-5
Cover design: William Webb. Cover photograph: Ai Iijima/Photonica

From the moment you begin reading this novel, you already know how it’s going to end. Yet you continue, because it’s the only thing you can do. Curiosity gets the best of you.

“On the morning the last Lisbon sister took her turn at suicide – it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese…”
The Virgin Suicides, p.1

Thus begins Eugenides’ brave novel about a subject so intense, rather morbid, and ultimately sad. Starting with the youngest, each of the five Lisbon sisters takes her own life. That is what we know. Why keep on reading?

Eugenides plays on the human condition of curiosity and the quest to find answers when a tragedy has taken place. We have a drive to know what we can (why? how? when?), perhaps to help us understand life better. Perhaps to remind us that our lives are just fine in comparison.

I consider Eugenides a favourite author of mine (I have read Middlesex several years ago – I recommend it). His writing is unlike that of any author I’ve ever read before; Eugenides is a writer capable of evoking the deepest of human emotions, but he does it with serenity in his hypnotic voice. He tells his tragic stories most beautifully. There isn’t an author at this moment whose new work I look out for more. Especially now that I've read The Virgin Suicides.

The Virgin Suicides is about the Lisbon sisters, yes, but more than that, it's a story about a group of suburban boys in the seventies, who all worshipped and adored five beautiful sisters who at some point took their own young lives. Each of the sisters found admirers in these neighbourhood boys, who watched the Lisbons grew up into adolescence. The boys, always hoping to get closer to these unattainable girls. These boys who missed them and continued to be fascinated with the Lisbons long after the girls all died.

As we (readers) read the story of the Virgin Suicides, told by one, more or all of the now mature neighbourhood boys, we become those boys. We are mesmerized by Mary, Therese, Bonnie, Lux and Cecilia, beautiful even as they slowly wither away. We look back in time, trying to make sense of it all.

We are left to wonder, forever.

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R&R series (and its photos, reviews) © Karin Elizabeth 2008-2009