PAPERBACK; 249 P. BLOOMSBURY, 2011/1993 SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY
The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.
The Virgin Suicides is Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel and has been famously adapted into a film directed by Sofia Coppola. The story takes place in a nice suburban neighbourhood in Michigan in the 1970s, and is narrated by a group of anonymous boys who admire the Lisbon sisters. The five Lisbon sister are quite normal, but in the eyes of the teenage boys they appear as ethereal, mysterious beauties. However, the story is told from 20 years after as the boys (now middle-aged men) are still trying to piece together the puzzle of the suicides. The story is, in fact, as much about the boys as it is about the five Lisbon sisters: Lux, Cecilia, Mary, Therese and Bonnie.
The first thing that you notice in The Virgin Suicides is how beautifully it is written – the language is simply stunning. It is like a fading photograph, fighting against the time to relive the moment over and over again. The beauty of the writing presents a strong contrast to the serious topic of suicide. In fact, in the beginning of the book I was slightly hesitant because I feared that it might end up glorifying suicide (which it didn’t!). The fate of the sisters is revealed already in the beginning, and this foreshadowing of the future events actually reminded me of The Book Thief. Hence, the focus of the story is not so much on the ‘what’ but on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the event. I found this aspect of the story very interesting as it explored also the wider impact of suicide in small communities.
As the story is narrated 20 years after, it offers also snippets of information that the boys have gained in later years in their search for the truth about the Lisbon sisters. There are interviews with the neighbours, teachers, doctors and school friends, that all contribute to the picture of the time period. All in all,The Virgin Suicides presents a story about growing up, with all its joys and sorrows. In addition, it explores the small community and how a neighbourhood reacts to the decay of one family. I heartily recommend this book to all the readers who love beautifully written books and stories that matter.
We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.