I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.
"When she jumped, she probably thought she'd fly."
The Virgin Suicides, on the surface, promises to be a sad, morbid tale of teen suicide – The Lisbon girls, the eldest being 17, kill themselves over a span of thirteen months. But Eugenides constructs the story so peculiarly that the conventional reaction you expect to have goes flying out the window. The content is depressing. Yet it’s treated in a way that makes it seem surreal and magical, almost romantic, and even darkly funny at times.
I’m still not sure what I feel right now. I’m sad, intrigued, a little frustrated, but accompanying everything is a weird sense of detachment and indifference. I feel like I must grieve for these poor girls and their tragically short lives, but I can’t because I’m not moved enough. And strangely, that’s exactly what the book sets out to achieve. You are supposed to know about the girls but not get to know them. You are supposed to know what happened, but not why it happened.
The story is narrated from the perspective of a bunch of boys who lived in the Lisbon’s neighborhood at the time of the tragedy. Now in their mid-thirties, the boys are still haunted by the enigma of the girls’ suicides. The tone, in many ways, is like a criminal investigation – the boys have collected a series of evidence and interviewed people (including the girls’ parents) in a desperate attempt to understand what might have happened during those terrible thirteen months.
This style of narration is what keeps you detached. The Lisbon girls are never really the protagonists, even though the book essentially tells their story – or at least, tries to. Their lives unfold like a patchwork of recollections and assumptions; a collage of many different, tiny details that when put together only forms a vague impression of five depressed sisters.
More than the grief, this book stirred an intense curiosity in me. It’s like I’ve contracted the boys’ collective obsession; like I’ve myself lived across the Lisbons and seen them being consumed by rot and ruin. And just like every other person privy to the tragedy, I find myself making assumptions and theories about what the girls must have felt and thought during the last few months of their lives.
Sad. Dreamlike. Weird. I really liked The Virgin Suicides. It's a great piece of literature and its status as a cult classic of sorts is justified. Definitely worth a read, even if you don’t like it.
"It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together."