The Virgin Suicides
The Virgin Suicides is set in the 1970’s in a suburban American town. The 5 Lisbon sisters have led a highly sheltered life thanks to their overprotective mother. At the start of the book we learn that all 5 sisters have committed suicide. Told from the perspective of the neighbourhood boys that were obsessed with the Lisbon sisters, this book explores what could be seen of their lives and how much these boys have devoted their lives to finding out what led to these suicides.
Firstly, I really enjoyed the first person plural narrative, its an unusual narrative technique but it worked really well! The writing in this book is beautiful, and has a haunting and sombre tone to it. The grief of the narrative is extremely powerful, and makes the book an emotional read.
The pacing of the book is deliberately slow and even throughout the book. This really adds to the effect, although I do prefer books that keep me gripped a little bit more – unfortunately this felt quite slow while I was reading it. The ending of the book was also a disappointment, as someone who enjoys shock climax endings, the slow “monotone” ending didn’t quite do it for me. I understand that this was probably done to echo the feeling that the neighbourhood boys experienced (who are grown men still pondering the same questions by the end of the book), but I still felt a little let down.
Another thing I particularly liked in this book was the use of metaphors that are used very well. For example; the physical deterioration of the Lisbon house echoes the decline in their family situation, the dying neighbourhood trees echo the suicides of the girls and finally – the bra on the crucifix echoes Lux’s sexual rebellion against her strict catholic upbringing.
As far as the characters go, the boys of the neighbourhood are the most intriguing, and added a really interesting narrative drive to the book. The only Lisbon sisters that were focused on in depth were Cecelia and Lux, and I’m not sure I quite understand why (I believe this is something I will consider further). The attitudes of the people in the town, and the Lisbon parents were also pretty prominent features in the story, which added an even more mysterious illusion to the sisters
Overall, I did enjoy this book, despite being disappointed by the pacing and ending. It definitely makes for an interesting read that leaves you thinking and analysing the book afterwards! I recommend checking this out!