Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Jeffery Eugenides | The Virgin Suicides



The five Lisbon sisters, Celia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese, lead a sheltered life in a big house. Their Mother seems to want to keep these teenagers as innocent as possible by dressing them in modest clothes and preaching religion. Their Dad is reluctant to help and their whole life seems grey. It's no wonder they eventually end up committing the 'terrible sin' that is suicide.

The narrative is first person plural, and 'you' are a group of boys who are obsessed with the girls. Although I don't think you ever find out how many of these boys there are, in my mind they seemed to be a swarming mass of creeps! I felt like I didn't want to be a part of this infatuated group, yet I couldn't leave. They plot their way into the girls' house, giving them their first ever party, and burrowing into their drawers and personal spaces.

In a way I felt sorry for these boys. It was like they'd been bewitched, but the more they tried to help, the more the girls drew away. For example, the coded messages they sent across the street seemed like a step forward, but as they were minutes away from finally escaping, BAM, they'd all killed themselves. Many years later, and when the story is set, they were collecting all the interviews, pictures and general evidence so as not to forget about them, and you realise that the spell did not break when the girls died. If anything, it became stronger.

Two of the sisters stood out more to me: Celia and Mary. Now, you should never say suicide is selfish, but if Celia hadn't killed herself to start with - overcome, it seemed, with early-teen angst - her sisters would have stayed alive also. Whether Celia's death showed them a new way out of their miserable life or set them grieving, and feeling a need to die also I don't know, but I think I'm safe in saying it was Celia who set the dominoes falling.
And Mary, who I just felt sorry for. It's like in Harry Potter where Ron and Harry can't get through to Platform 9 3/4, except this time Harry's on his own. All Mary's sisters are dead and she's stranded on the living side of the wall, where she - after her failed suicide attempt - clearly doesn't want to be. The house is totally empty as they're moving with her shocked Mum and Dad and I'm sure she can hear the calling of her sisters in that now-hollow house...

I give The Virgin Suicides 4.5/5 stars as it's great, but for me it just didn't have that x factor that makes a book stick in my mind. 

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