- Paperback (Fourth Estate, 243 pages)
- First published 1993; this edition published 2013
- Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
- Buy the book here
“The shocking thing about the girls 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.”
This is such a weird, weird novel. And why wouldn’t it be? The story of five sisters, each committing suicide one after the other, isn’t one that screams normal. It almost seems ethereal, and I’ve no doubt Eugenides intended it to appear in that way to his readers. This is my first Eugenides novel (and his debut) – and I’m left feeling somewhat bemused.
I feel like comparisons to Lana del Rey wouldn’t be inaccurate, despite the two things being different mediums. The Virgin Suicides and Lana’s music share a breathy, dramatic quality that at times can be very heady. Eugenides’ writing is incredibly lyrical and eloquent, but I never really felt like the book gained any traction. It didn’t seem to have a point – and I know literature doesn’t necessarily have to have a point, but I felt as though The Virgin Suicides was a novel that seemed a mess of beautiful prose that was only that and nothing more. The plot did not grab me, and the characters – with the exception of Lux – were cardboard cutouts of each other despite Eugenides’ narrator insisting otherwise (a narrator, by the way, whom we never really glimpse). The only thing I really liked about The Virgin Suicides – and hence the three-star rating – was the prose, the various passages that were beautifully, elegantly yet messily crafted. Perhaps they are all the more beautiful because of their untidiness.
As it is, The Virgin Suicides has an intriguing premise, and much promise – but for me, it never really delivered, and I was left with a sense of confusion.