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Customer Review

on 20 April 2003
Jeffrey Eugenides' first novel The Virgin Suicides is an almost surreal, haunting, wholly unforgettable work of literary art. It has an almost unmatched depth and resonance that penetrates deeply into the ephemeral layers of life and humanity. In company with the vaguely revealed narrator and his former childhood friends, the reader becomes a peeping tom spying on the five young ladies next door and developing an intense need to understand their innermost thoughts and feelings and to come to know what terrible forces lurking inside that increasingly deteriorating house could possibly lead each of them to take their own lives. There's no real mystery to this story, as the reader is told from the very first page that the five girls will all commit suicide; the heart of the novel lies in the search for answers that can never truly be forthcoming.
The Lisbon girls - Cecilia (13), Lux (14), Bonnie (15), Mary (16), and Theresa (17) haunt every page of this novel; even as one reads about their lives during the tumultuous year in which all would commit suicide, one sees only ephemeral visions of what they could have been without any penetrating snapshots of their engaging in life in a literal sense. Cecilia, the youngest, is the first to go. Three weeks after slitting her wrists in an unsuccessful attempt to die, she leaves a party thrown for her own benefit and hurls herself from an upstairs window onto a picket fence. The neighborhood boys are there when it happens and thus feel an intense link to the lovely girls next door who die without ever really having lived. We hear their private conversations and speculations about the girls and witness their attempts to both penetrate the deadly gloom that soon wraps the house in a death shroud as well as to somehow save the girls from a fate seemingly forced upon them by destiny. While certain adolescent issues of a sexual nature meander through their thoughts, the image they cast of the girls is one of purity of a sort. Even Lux, the one sister who is far from virginal, comes across as some type of mystical being whose most sordid of acts seems less than unclean.
All we learn about the tragic sisters comes from our narrator and his friends, boys whose fascination and surreal love for the girls never loses its hold on them in later adulthood. The images conveyed about the mysterious interior of the house and the complete and utter breakdown of the entire, tragic Lisbon family is filtered through their eyes. The Virgin Suicides really is a type of ghost story and as such can only be analyzed and pondered over without being "solved." Eugenides does seem to wander off into tangents on a couple of occasions, but by and large he builds this story up beautifully to its previously stated yet still tragically shocking ending. The novel gets under your skin and penetrates your very heart, leaving a very real emotional imprint on the reader's mind and soul. This is an exquisitely written masterpiece of a novel, lyrically gripping in its style and mesmerizing in its emotional impact.
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