This is my third Jeffrey Eugenides’ book. I read them in reverse order of publication, just like I did with Adichie’s.
This was Eugenides’ debut novel.
I really enjoyed his other two books, The Marriage Plot and Middlesex.
Both were completely different in genre, content and style of writing, which is kind of mindblowing when you think about it. And both were thoroughly arresting.
I didn’t get through this book on my first try, but I never hold that against the book since I am a mood reader.
As it turned out, I really liked this book when I gave it a second shot.
This is an odd book.
It’s about 5 sisters whom we never meet firsthand, the titular ‘virgins’ which is more an allusion to their mystery and perceived perfection and purity rather than their sexual activities.
The entire book is from the perspective of a group of boys, now middle – aged men who are inexplicably obsessed with these blond sisters with their strict, overly religious mother and hen-pecked father.
The book takes the form of reminiscences of the men themselves, extracts from interviews they conducted, and assorted documents that they accumulated over the years. And they are all concentrated on one year of their teenage years during which all five of these sisters commit suicide, apparently for no reason.
The format of this book gave it a hazy quality, overflowing with naiveté and nostalgia.
The style of writing was very lyrical, which was true of Middlesex as well. However, both books strike very different chords in one’s mind.
The Virgin Suicides is filled with overtones of longing for the girls, which blends in with the men’s longing for the old days, and allusions to a bleak future due to urbanisation and environmental damage, an apparent metaphor for a world sans the freshness, innocence and beauty of these girls.
The level of obsession of these men is disturbing as is the level of… well, not objectification, but rather idolatry that these girls are subject to. The reason for the obsession, which predates the first suicide attempt is unclear.
I figured it was probably because they were unattainable, because of their strict upbringing, but that’s a fairly flimsy reason in my eyes for such a level of preoccupation.
It made me uncomfortable, but it also made the book more interesting. It’s supposed to be a look into the girls’ suicides but it read like a long love letter to all five of them.
The only thing that I can conclude is that this is one of those books, rich with imagery, ideas and excellent narrative that has been written for the sake of a story, and nothing more than that.
There is no character development, there is no real beginning, middle and end, and there is no greater message. There is only pure narration… and it works. The girls are one dimensional because that’s how the boys saw them. In an irritating way, it makes perfect sense.
This is an extremely quotable book, which deserves a reread at some point, just for the clever lines that make one close the book, look up at the ceiling and smile.
It truly invokes all five senses and leaves one with a not entirely unpleasant bittersweet taste in one’s mouth.
Sorry if my review is meandering, because the book is too.
It’s a unique and enjoyable read, I thought, and I would definitely recommend it to people.
Have you read this book? Have you read any of Eugenides’ other books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.
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That’s all for today, guys. 🙂