Tuesday, August 7, 2012

E-Reading: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Name of Book: The Virgin Suicides

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

ISBN: 9780349105437

Publisher: Harper Collins Ltd

Type of book: 1970s, suicides, depression, theories, puzzles, mystery, goddesses, wealth, Michigan, decay, nature, oppression

Year it was published: 1993


This beautiful and sad first novel, recently adapted for a major motion picture, tells of a band of teenage sleuths who piece together the story of a twenty-year old family tragedy begun by the youngest daughter’s spectacular demise by self-defenstration, which inaugurates “the year of the suicides.”


I'm not really sure how to describe the characters of the series. We think we might know them, but at the same time we don't. They seem to be three dimensional, but at the same time what do we really know about them? The boys reveal very little of themselves throughout the novel, and the characters of other people make brief appearances but then as soon as their stories relating to Lisbons are over, they are done with. It's an enigma or a mystery as to why the sisters killed themselves.


There's no definite answer to suicide.

"With most people," he said, "suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn't mean the chambers were empty." (from the book, since I read it on Sony, its towards the very end.) I also wonder why its titled "virgin" but then I think perhaps the book describes the first time suicide came to attention, or when it wasn't taboo so to speak.


This is written in first person and third person, the first person using the "we", and third person describing everyone but the Lisbon sisters; the people that came in contact with them and so forth. The chapters are a jumble, often moving through different time frames, from past, briefly to the time they talked to someone as well as a brief update and then back to past again. The book asks more questions than it answers and just when you think you discovered an "aha!" moment, think again when it will be poked through by the narrators. I've also found it interesting the way the narrators seem to almost worship these sisters, to the point of keeping their keepsakes and creating a museum of sorts.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)

March 08, 1960 in Detroit, Michigan, The United States


Literature & Fiction

About this author

Jeffrey Kent Eugenides is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and short story writer of Greek and Irish extraction.

Eugenides was born in Detroit, Michigan, of Greek and Irish descent. He attended Grosse Pointe's private University Liggett School. He took his undergraduate degree at Brown University, graduating in 1983. He later earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford University.

In 1986 he received the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship for his story "Here Comes Winston, Full of the Holy Spirit". His 1993 novel, The Virgin Suicides, gained mainstream interest with the 1999 film adaptation directed by Sofia Coppola. The novel was reissued in 2009.

Eugenides is reluctant to appear in public or disclose details about his private life, except through Michigan-area book signings in which he details the influence of Detroit and his high-school experiences on his writings. He has said that he has been haunted by the decline of Detroit.[1]

Jeffrey Eugenides lives in Princeton, New Jersey with his wife, the photographer and sculptor Karen Yamauchi, and their daughter.[2] In the fall of 2007, Eugenides joined the faculty of Princeton University's Program in Creative Writing.

His 2002 novel, Middlesex, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Part of it was set in Berlin, Germany, where Eugenides lived from 1999 to 2004, but it was chiefly concerned with the Greek-American immigrant experience in the United States, against the rise and fall of Detroit. It explores the experience of the intersexed in the USA.[3] Eugenides has also published short stories.

Eugenides is the editor of the collection of short stories titled My Mistress's Sparrow is Dead. The proceeds of the collection go to the writing center 826 Chicago, established to encourage young people's writing.


I've watched the movie a number of times before I even heard of the book. I got it, took a chance and read it. For me personally it was a 3 star rating. Unlike the movie, which sacrificed Therese, Bonnie and Mary, we learn more about them in the novel and we also get to watch the house decay with the boys. Also, the movie ending never made sense to me, while in the book it made sense. I would have liked to know what happened to the characters as the decades passed: what happened to the boys, to the girls' family and so forth. The story itself is a mystery of what happened, almost an urban legend of why the girls killed themselves. (You learn they killed themselves on the very first page...) I think the author invites the reader to make more connections and whatnot. In truth, the book asks questions but never answers them. The interviews with the father and mother reveal nothing at all, one is not sure who or what to blame for their demise.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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