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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "the insufficiency of explanations"
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...
Published on 1 Feb 2007 by A. Ross

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49 of 53 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strange, unusual novel, 24 Jan 2013
By 
F. M. M. Stott (Devizes, Wiltshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: Reissued (Paperback)
I find this novel hard to summarise, as there is little in the way of plot, I never felt I really got to know the characters, and as it builds up to its (slow) climax, there are few surprises. And yet...

For a start, it is quite beautifully written. The writing drew me in where the plot did not, and oddly, it was enough to keep me reading - and enjoying - the book. The first of the five sisters to commit suicded dies at the beginning of the novel, and the story is told from the point of view of an anonymous member of a group of young men who watch, befriend and are fascinated by the girls. We never discover the identity of the narrator, nor do we need to. The girls themselves - vague, amorphous creatures; almost two-dimensional - never really came to life for me, but seemed to drift through the narrative like the pale ghosts they were to become. Their parents - weird, drunken mother and helpless father - are equally vague characters, and it's easy to understand the facination this odd family hold for their neighbours.

As the story builds towards the deaths of the remaining four sisters, there is some tension, but never enough to hold my attention on its own, and I found the ending rather flat. I was left slightly bewildered, but also with the feeling that I had read a good novel.

Would I recommend it? I'm not sure. If you like beautiful writing and unusual stories, then this may be for you. It's not the kind of book I would give to friends, and yet I'm glad I read it.

Three and a half stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, haunting and a must-read, 4 Dec 2012
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: Reissued (Paperback)
"The Virgin Suicides" has been my favourite novel since I was fifteen (ten long years ago now) and I enjoy it as much now as I did then. It is a beautifully sad tale that follows the Lisbon sisters, living in Grosse Pointe Michigan, watched from afar by their besotted adolescent boy neighbours who document their every move.

The novel opens with the attempted suicide of the youngest sister, Cecilia, who is found "like a Stoic" with bleeding wrists in the family bathtub. From this dramatic beginning, the reader is guided through the lives of the Lisbons (though from an outside perspective) as the girls are increasingly stifled by their over-protective parents in the face of a family tragedy that ultimately leads to the suicide of all five girls.

The narration style is unique as the story is told from the perspective of the Lisbon's neighbours, detailing their encounters with the mysterious creatures that they cannot fathom. We understand the girls only as the boys do - from caught glances and overheard words. They presume so much and know so little about these ethereal sisters that they seem to adore yet hardly know.

Eugenides writing is truly masterful; he manages to create a hazy atmosphere of teenage obsession with witty, albeit dark, humour. The prose is subtle yet mysterious, reflecting the nature of the novel and of the girls themselves. The language Eugenides employs sets a tone of sadness and fated tragedy as though the course events was imposible to avert.

The plot meanders through various experiences of the sisters that are examined minutely by their adolescent admirers; experiences that tell them so little of the reasons behind their eventual tragic deaths. The subtlety that Eugenides writes with is so powerful - with little dialogue, so much is said and implied.

The ambiguity is so reflective of life itself and that tragedies such as these rarely have a definitive cause. Rather it is a culmination of events, people, thoughts and feelings that lead to such a sad act. Eugenides allows the reader their own opinion of why the girls chose such an end rather than tell you how to feel; he resists wrapping up the reasons and allows contemplation, adding to the philosophical and thoughtful nature throughout the novel.

All I can say is that this is so beautifully written with poignant, atmospheric prose and original narration style.

This will forever be my favourite novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Now the soft decay of the house began to show up..., 25 Oct 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides: Reissued (Paperback)
Apart from hating the cover, (not the one shown here) and the insidiousness of the male-gaze narrative, I have to admit that this book is well written, remarkably attentive to its agenda though perhaps a little overweening. It concerns the deaths of five female siblings whose mother is highly protective of her daughters and whose father is weak enough to just go along with things to keep the peace.

The first death is of the youngest - Cecelia aged 13, and she cuts her wrists in the bath. She survives, but then throws herself onto a spiked fence from a high window. Why should the death of this first child so haunt the group of boys who are relating the story? Who are these boys anyway, and why are they so attentively fixated on the remaining four girls?

We don't get the answers to any of the above questions and no one else ever really seems to understand in totality why the other sisters had to die. In fact, this group of narrators (presumably there is a main narrator? A spokesperson, perhaps?) do not sound or behave anything like the group of teenaged boys they are supposed to be. They sound (somewhat creepily) like Jeffrey Eugenides, a man with a deeply sensual interest in young girls - fixating on the perplexing question of why these girls (not all of them virgins incidentally) serially destroyed themselves. He knows, presumably, since he made the story up. But we are left with a sense of puzzlement. The life of the remaining four girls is one of complete withdrawal to privacy. No school, no shopping, no life outside the home. No one tries to find out and this acceptance of the disappearance of four girls from all and any social life feels unlikely.
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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, Nave 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A conjuring trick, 21 April 2010
By 
D. J. H. Thorn "davethorn13" (Hull, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
As I progressed through my reading of this novel, I struggled to understand why I could not put it down despite feeling that the characters were too distant. On reflection, I realise that that was the author's intention. The book works through an odd narrative device. At the beginning the use of 'we' suggests a first person narration, but it gradually becomes clear that this is no ordinary viewpoint. Eugenides cultivates an 'us and them' narrative which emphasises the distance of the five sisters from the rest of the neighbourhood. Moreover, the boys who lust after them detach themselves from the 'us' to join the 'them', only to return to the fold when they come away frustrated. The story consequently possesses an unreal, dreamy quality. If there is one disappointment, it would be the rather obvious, simplistic moral about how one would live if only people would allow one to. A clever and highly individual novel, but perhaps with slightly too much cleverness and not quite enough tenderness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 16 Dec 2008
By 
L. Howard - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
The Virgin Suicides is my favourite book of all time. I read it at least once a year and devour it just as much as I did the first time. Each time I take something else from it. Beautiful, simple and elegant. I recommend this book to everybody.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving book, 24 Mar 2003
This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
At the title, I expect this book to be filled with doom and gloom - which it is, essentially on the surface.
Eugenides, however has managed to weave the pain these teenagers into a story told be the boys across the street. What follows is full of lust, secrets, and mystery.
A brilliant book I didn't put down until I'd read it at least twice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly beautifuly terrifying, 4 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
I don't know what to say about this masterpiece. Thinking about the complexity of the characters and the situation they are thrown into just stuns me into speechlessness. Much better than the film, this paints the picture of the heartache felt by the boys that are so much in love with the girls, something we cn all relate to. Eugenides should be very very proud.
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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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them...", 10 July 2007
By 
M. Torun (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Virgin Suicides (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written book about a five sisters who commit suicide. It has a unique style in that there is no real protagonist. Instead there are two groups of characters. The first are the Lisbon girls, whose far-away lives and deaths drive the book. Then are the teenage boys who admire and idolise them. Although the book is written from their point of view, the reader has insight into these boys only through their feelings and actions towards the girls.

This unfathomable nature of the characters is purposeful because the book is about the impossibility of understanding adolescence, both of others' and your own. The main characters struggle to understand the Lisbon girls as if revealing the truth about them would explain something in their own lives. The final act of suicide, which tears the girls out of their reach completely, is the most mysterious of all, and leaves them obsessed.

As the boys ponder about the suicides (years later when they are grown men), collect weird items that the girls left behind and speak to everyone who has interacted with them, you begin to put together a hazy and hopelessly incomplete image of the girls' lives. In the end, no one can explain the motivations behind the their actions, and the reader, like every character in the book, is left wondering.

I would recommend reading the book and watching the film - both equally enchanting.
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