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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful:

October 7, 2005

This is the first time I've ever encountered the sort of narration used in "The Virgin Suicides." Instead of one central narrator, it is a collective of the local boys told through "we" instead of "I" or "he", which takes a little getting used to for this reader. At first I found this unique and interesting, but by the end I thought this device kept me from really experiencing the story on a personal level. Everything became so detached it was as if reading a newspaper account.

It didn't help that the Lisbon girls all seemed like clones except for Lux and Cecelia. The other three--Mary, Bonnie, and Therese--are so little-used it's hard to remember anything specific about them. Lux is certainly the best-drawn of the five girls, as her adventures on the rooftop and so forth are well-documented, but even she remains impersonal.

The boy narrators themselves are even more vague and impersonal. We know very little about any of them, except names and scant bits of information. I suppose it's ironic in a novel about how unknowable the Lisbons are that the reader knows even less about the boys telling the story, except that they loved the Lisbons.

By the end, like reading an obituary in a newspaper, I feel badly for the Lisbons, but it's that momentary, vague blip of sadness before flipping to the sports page.

I undertand that's the point of the novel. No one understands the Lisbons as much as they try. It makes for an interesting literary exercise; however, it doesn't really make for an entertaining book.

I would highly recommend Eugenides' other novel--the Pulitzer-winning "Middlesex"--over this one. In "Middlesex" Eugenides provides both a thought-provoking premise and an entertaining novel instead of just the former.

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