#62 A Review of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Years ago I had seen Sophia Coppola’s film The Virgin Suicides and fell in love with the oddness of it.  How unusual of a story that follows the dreary lives of five sisters, who all eventually commit suicide?  When I found out the film was based on a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides it was immediately added to my to-read list.  When Adam over at Roof Beam Reader created the TBR Pile Challenge I knew I had to sign up, and make this one of my choices.

Set in Michigan in the early 1970’s, The Virgin Suicides details the lives of the five Lisbon sisters.  Ranging in age from 13 to late teens, the sisters were raised in a rigid household that aimed to conform to all the social norms heaped upon a suburban family in that era.  The story is not told from their perspective, but rather from a retrospective look back through the eyes of a local boys who admired the sisters from afar. Told as a dark and uniquely complex coming-of-age tale, Eugenides book details the downward spiral of the sisters as they slowly become distant and disconnected after the suicide of their youngest sister, Cecilia.  After Cecilia’s death, the four sisters are pulled from school by their father in the belief that it will help them recover from what they have undergone.  Instead, the sisters become objects of intense fascination by the narrators and others in the town.  Their ultimate suicides are the culmination of immense pressure and speculation about what is happening to the girls, and their violent end is a fitting conclusion to this dark and interesting tale.

The best way to describe this novel is that it’s 100% a character driven drama, that tries to delve into the psyche of the Lisbon girls and the boys that loved them from afar.  I REALLY wanted to love this novel, but when I was reading it, it felt like I was going around in repetitive circles that never took me anywhere.  When the novel was finished I said to myself, “ok self, there was a point to this novel, I just don’t know what.”  I know that it is trying to take a look at suburban life in the 70’s and isn’t JUST about the girls.  While the story revolves around their short lives, it also reflects on the way the town and local media dealt with their suicides, how the neighbors reacted to living next door to the family, etc.  It makes bold statements about how the world keeps moving, never slowing and never stopping to heal from grief or allow for condolences.  An interesting side storyline in the novel is how there is a strike going on at the local cemetery.  When the girls kill themselves they have to be stored somewhere until the strike ends before they can be buried.  None of the striking grave diggers feel any remorse to allow for “scabs” to enter the cemetery to bury the sisters.  It’s little tidbits of information thrown into the story like this that highlight these bold statements about society that Eugenides has written.

The social commentary of the novel, as well as Eugenides thought-provoking writing style are its saving graces.  I’d recommend the novel for its unique story but forewarn those who do read it as it is a.) depressing and b.) extremely repetitive making it a very slow read.

3 out of 5 Stars

This is my first completed review for the TBR Pile Challenge

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Gardners Books (2002)
Paperback: 249 pages
ISBN:  9780747560593

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Read-A-Thon Hour 6, Mini-Challenge #5

It’s hour 6! Where is the time flying!?  The mini-challenge for hour six is being hosted by Book Journey!  We’re asked to discuss what we serve at a discussion of the book we’re currently reading.  Without further ado here is my menu!

For my dinner party, we will discuss The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. Considering the fact that the book takes place during college then explores the lives of a group of friends in post grad it would be a two-course meal. Course one will be chock full of the three essential undergraduate food groups; carbs, caffeine and alcohol. Treat your taste buds to some cold pizza and a red bull. For dessert enjoy some luke warm Bud Light served in a classy red solo cup.

Is your stomach hurting yet? No? Then on to course two…

Course two is the post grad dish. There is only one food group in the post grad diet and that is cheap food. Slurp some Raman Noodles out of a coffee mug then enjoy some $4.99 special boxed wine. Student loan invoices can be used as napkins to wipe your mouth or dry your tears…whichever you feel fit.

Too bad I’m not finished with the book. I’m hoping my main character Madeline can enjoy some prime rib and champagne by the end if the story.

See you in hour 7!

Read-A-Thon Hour 4, Mini-Challenge #3

It’s hour four!  Our fourth staff blogger, Jess, is now joining us!  Since she missed out on the getting to know you questions from hour one, we asked her to do them for hour four!

Jess’s Responses:

  1. Good ol’ Hamden, Connecticut.  It’s my 2nd home.
  2. Most looking forward to The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.  I might even take a stab at Fifty Shades of Grey too!
  3. I am looking forward to the Crumbs Cupcakes that fellow staff blogger Adam brought from NYC for the read-a-thon
  4. I’m Jessica Bade; I’m graduating from my masters program on May 13th and I’m so excited to read for fun more and write for Reflections again!
  5. This is my first read-a-thon – I’m looking forward to spending the day with the other staff members and getting to know them even better than I already do!

THANKS Jess!! We’re really excited she is able to join us for a good chunk of the day!

For hour four Reflections of a Bookaholic is hosting the mini-challenge!  We were asked to turn to page 32 of our books and find something that would fit in the following sentence:

“I would rather read than ___________ any day.”

We came up with some humorous ones! Our responses are below:

Kim: I would rather read than confirm the supposition of unrequited love any day. (Currently reading: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides)

Todd: I would rather read than work around the jack hammer moving away the pieces of rock after checking them for fossils any day. (Currently reading: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton)

Adam:  I would rather read than give my regards to Broadway any day. (Currently reading: B’Way: The American Musical by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon)

Jess: I would rather read than have mismatched libidos any day. (Currently reading: The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book by Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner)

The four of us are off to go enjoy lunch for a bit, before heading back into reading.  See you in hour five!

New Year; New Challenges – Part Deux

January 1, 2012 = Official start of my next 100 book challenge!  After completing my 100 books for 2011 I’ve decided to up my personal goal to 110 books for 2012.  (What’s the fun in doing the same thing every year, right?)  You can check out my challenge page to see what specific challenges I’ve signed up for.  I’ve kept it small this year so that I can continue to be eclectic in my reading choices.

Top books I’m hoping to read this year are:

  1. Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke
  2. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  3. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  4. Be Different by John Elder Robison
  5. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  6. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
  7. The Apothecary’s Daughter by Julie Klassen
  8. Deadlocked (Sookie Stackhouse #12) by Charlaine Harris

Kinda small list, I know, but if I were to list all of the books I’m excited to read this year we’d be here for a while!  If you want to recommend stuff for me to read check out my lists from 2010 and 2011 and let me know what you think I’ll like.

As always, I encourage you to try your own reading challenges! My biggest piece of advice is start small! There is nothing wrong with saying you want to read 10 books in a year!  Make a small goal, meet that goal, then up it!  Tell me about your own goals, and the books you’re excited about reading below.

Good luck, and happy reading!!