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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic novel of adolescent love and obsession
I saw the film and wanted to read the book to understand the concept more. I wasn't disappointed and was sucked in by the world the boys inhabit and the intensity of their feelings. The girls are indeed mystical creatures and fascinated me from beginning to end. This is a must for all who have seen the film and should not be missed!!!!!
Published on 12 May 2002

versus
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I got it but I didn't get it
I wanted to love this book. I wanted to fall head over heels in love with it. I thought I would aswell. Books about teenagers are my thing, books about suburbia are my thing, books about suicide are my thing. This should have been my thing, but it wasn't.
This is the story about the Lisbon girls, five sisters who all killed themselves, told by the neighbourhood boys...
Published on 5 April 2006 by imla


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 12 July 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Hardcover)
I read this book around a year ago. I hadn't ever heared of it before I bought it. I didn't really expect much, it was just a book I picked up to read on my holiday. It turned out to be one of the best books I have ever read. Jeffery Eugenides manages to juggle very different elements in the book and he fits them together perfectly. The film is also very good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Eugenic Eugenides, 15 July 2013
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: Reissued (Paperback)
Jeffrey Eugenides (b. 1960) turns up on 'books of the year' roundups in UK newspapers quite regularly so I thought I'd give his first novel a go. The Virgin Suicides (1993) concerns the successive self killings of the five Lisbon sisters, who range in age from 13 to 17. Despite the title, not all of the girls turn out to be virgins.

The book superbly evokes American school life of the 1970s and is particularly good on the trials of dating:

'our fathers and older brothers, our decrepit uncles had assured us that looks didn't matter if you were a boy...finally, confronted with clusters of clever girls blushing at Trip's approach, or yanking their braids to keep from smiling too much, we realised that our fathers, brothers and uncles had lied, and that no one was going to love us for our good grades.'

An unusual feature of the book is the use of the first person plural ('we') for the story, the book being narrated by a group of the Lisbon girls schoolboy contemporaries. This technique was later used even more succesfully in Joshua Ferris's magnificent And Then We Came to an End (2007).

Despite the book's virtues, it wasn't entirely to my taste. Eugenides clearly values atmosphere over narrative momentum, and for a quite substantial portion of the book it is not obvious what, if anything, is the point of suspense.

The prose, while fresh and carefully constructed, is rather 'literary' and effete. Much of the language would not be used outside the confines of the literary novel.

Finally, there is perhaps something voyeuristic about the way the teenage Lisbon sisters are described. No doubt this could be defended as reflecting the attitude of the schoolboy contemporaries of the sisters rather than the author's view, but it remains an uneasy element.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An emotionally intense novel, 19 July 2012
By 
R. A. Davison (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: Reissued (Paperback)
I read The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides last month and it reminded me how highly I had thought of Middlesex some years ago, remaining then was The Virgin Suicides, a novel which has been lurking about my house unread for at least 5 years, and I decided to pick it up and get it done.

I saw the film featuring Kirsten Dunst with music by the band Air around 12 years ago not long after it came out, so had an idea of what to expect.

In The Virgin Suicides, the five Lisbon sisters are infamous among the boys in their town. Ethereal, enigmatic beauties they intrigue, intice and arouse those boys, who are desperate to know them and their lives.

The tale is told by those local boys, now grown up who reflect on that period of time, those girls and what it all meant in such as manner as if they are writing a biography or notes on an exhibition. Photographs are referred to as if they are visible to the reader which they aren't as well as news articles, again not featured and articles of the girls clothing.

The story of the fascination with the Lisbon sisters began before the first suicide attempt with boys daring each other to steal the girls bras and makeup. Their notoriously strict mother has created an intense prison for her daughters since they hit puberty and they are rarely seen alone or out of the house besides at school which only serves to add to their mystique.

When the youngest Cecelia only 13, attempts suicide, fails, but quickly thereafter succeeds, the chain of events that engulfs her sisters is chronicled by the watching neighbourhood boys.

As Mrs Lisbon's decisions to increasingly isolate her daughters begin to make the family implode, this is reflected in the increasing decay on the outside of their property, and a sweltering kind of emotional humidity within reflected in the gathering filth and later lack of food.

Of the girls only Lux and Cecelia come off the page as rounded characters, with Bonnie, Therese and Mary fading into nothing in the background, just 3 other beautiful, damaged girls which is something of a shame. In addition, though Mrs Lisbon is clearly in some way to blame for the unhappiness of her daughters, the reader never finds out why she behaves as she does, because the neighbourhood boys did not have any interest in her. But the Lisbon sisters were a mystery, and to explain away their deaths with cliched references to emotional abuse is something Eugenides seeks to avoid, both I think in order to avoid that sort of happy-clappy psychology speak and to retain that mystery. It's a shame that we never know why Mrs Lisbon destroyed her daughters in such a way or why Mr Lisbon didn't stand up for them but it does not affect either the quality of the writing or its overall enjoyment.

In reference to the chosen mode of narrative, I found it rather unbelievable and excessively morbid that a group of grown men would have clung on to mouldy makeup and rotting rodent bitten candles as keepsakes of a group of dead girls as if they were the relics of saints, but then, I suppose having kept them initially when do you throw them out without throwing away the dead girl with them?

The book is very emotionally moving and I found myself quite physically affected by it too, at moments feeling suddenly cold, or being able to feel the warmth of the summer, or smell the stifling scent of the unclean home. Particularly toward the end the atmosphere and melancholy really impacts the reader, but all along you are as drawn in by the girls as their neighbourhood observers, and in such a way the novel becomes a page turner.

Not a cheery novel by any means, I felt very dispirited by it, but a very well written novel nonetheless 9/10
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "the insufficiency of explanations", 1 Feb. 2007
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
After reading Eugenides masterful Middlesex, I decided to go back and read his much slimmer debut novel in the hopes it was at least partially as good. While it's not quite as amazing as Middlesex, it is quite good in its own peculiar way. However, those who like their novels to answer the questions they raise should be forewarned, as they will likely find it a rather unsatisfying experience.

Set in the early '70s in the tony Detroit suburb of Grosse Point, the story's premise is outlined in the very first paragraph: over the course of a year, all five of the teenaged Lisbon sisters commit suicide. This year is described in an unusual second-person plural voice which is that of a group of neighborhood boys (now men) who, some twenty years later, are reviewing the results of their "investigation" into the suicides. (There doesn't seem be any particular point to laying this out as an investigation, as opposed to a memoir, and this framework is a little shaky in that various "exhibits" and "attachments" are referred to in the narrative, but unavailable to the reader.)

So while the reader is aware from the start that this is a tragedy, the expectation is that the story will go on to explain why this occurred, what drove the girls to do this. And while the story beautifully details that dismal year, and reports on all the speculation by the neighborhood adults who project their own worldviews onto the tragedy, it concludes: "We were certain only of the insufficiency of explanations." And that is presumably the main point of the book --that suicide cannot ever be explained because we can never have access to the person's thoughts and emotions. This also explains the use of the second-person perspective, as Eugenides implicitly rejects the notion of the omniscient narrator. The boys' obsession with the sisters is another enigma, and becomes almost as creepy and dark as the suicides, as we learn of their all-night vigils and serial-killeresque hoarding of Lisbon sister-related artifacts.

The writing has a certain dreamy ethereal ambiguity to it--there's definitely the haze of memory and a certain degree of nostalgia, but overlain with the essential mysteriousness of the five girls. We only get to know two of them particularly well: Cecilia, a kind of proto-goth who dyes her underwear black, and Lux, who attempts to find human connection via hedonism. In a sense, the book is kind of gothic horror story, shot through with moments of black humor (such as the when the men of the neighborhood struggle to remove the fence Cecilia impales herself on). The film version is utterly faithful to both this tone and the storyline itself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, 31 Dec. 2001
This review is from: Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
After seeing a trailer for the movie on Sky, I thought it may be about teenagers who think they have nothing left to live for. Seeing the title, i judged it to be in the saame sex-horror genre as Cherry Falls.
However-i was wrong. The tragic story is original and unique, telling the story of a strict household brought its knees by the ultimate rebellion: suicide.
It kicks off with the dramatic near-suicide of Cecilia, whose character still eludes the narrators (young boys obsessed with the sisters, all speaking in once voice as narrator) and from there it invited you to judge the little-known, much worshipped Lisbon sisters as they, one by one, leave this world forever.
It isn't a dark tale-there are quite a few spots of humour: for instance, the boys reaction upon reading Cecilia's diary, a girl telling them of her debilatating crush on local smoothie Trip Fomtaine. It is full of those little details that tell of adolescent life: descriptions of Bonnie's hopeless kissing, a brassiere draped across a crucifix, a house of Walt Disney specials, and the rather un-nerving distances existing between mother, father, and 'the girls.'
Overall this is a very touching, tragic, era-reviving story. I reccommend it to anyone who has seen the film, or is just on the look-out for a slightly unusual story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A huge disappointment, 6 July 2010
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
I was terribly disappointed by this book. I was expecting to love it - lots of the books I've read and enjoyed link to this on Amazon (The perks of being a wallflower, When I was five I killed myself, Naïve super, The catcher in the rye etc - all of which are brilliant) and this doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as such greats. It's written in such a mundane, detached manner that you really don't care what's going on. The only blessing is it's a relatively short book and so didn't take up too much of my time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a "Bridge over Troubled Water"., 14 April 2010
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
This is a very touching book. And you have to be a hell of a writer, as Eugenides is, to be able to write an entire book around a story - a very tragic event - you reveal in the very first pages. This is not a book about "what" happened, but a book where, always from a distance, always as "outsiders", we keep questioning ourselves about "why" it happened. As readers, we desperately try to fill the very same gaps that Tom Faheen, Chase Buell and all the other boys in the neighbourhood of the "suicide girls" try to fill. We never know what the Lisbon girls really think, or feel, or want. Their inner world remains a mystery buried inside a house that ends up resembling the perished state of mind of its owners. All we can do is collecting pieces of evidence, observing the girls from afar, spying them through their windows, trying to build a "bridge over troubled water", before the irreparable happens. There is no way of escaping this point of view, the author leaves us no choice. We are like the boys who tell us the story - the narrator is an uncommon "we" - and Eugenides succeeds in getting us as emotionally involved as they are.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You have to read this book!!!!!, 25 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
I was literally glued to this book from eight o'clock in the evening till the late hours of the morning. Having seen the film, i was interested in reading the book. I have never been as hooked on a book as i was to this. I couldn't put it down. The plot and sub-plot of this book were fantastically intertwined...I loved the fact that, on the surface, there was the heartbreaking tale of the five sisters who take their own lives, but also the obsession of the group who are telling the story. Intriguing, beautiful, moving... its just brilliant!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignantly haunting, 12 Oct. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
This book was one of the best I have ever read. The first and last paragraphs are written beautifully, the last paragraph making me cry with the poignancy of the book.
This tale is of the five beautiful Lisbon sisters, who, by boys in their neighbourhood, are observed with wonder and sadness.
The girls change when the youngest, Cecilia, commits suicide during a party held for her by her parents. Later on, the boys watch as the girls go on their first, and last, date at the prom and wonder how the girls feel when they are mysteriously withdrawn from school. The emotionsranges from the delight the girls feel at being at the prom, to the lonely sadness they must feel as the boys play records down the phone to them. Overall, this book is a fantastic read and will make you feel as though you are in that neighbourhood at that time. A beautiful, poignant book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A BEAUTIFUL AND MAGICAL NOVEL!, 3 July 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
For anyone who has seen the movie and is considering buying or reading the book, I absoloutely recommend that you do, the book is much deeper than the movie, I learned a lot more about life and death from the book. The characters all though we never really fully undrstand them become more real. This book is one you should read and then take about a half hour off to just think about what you have read.........read it!
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