Thursday, April 04, 2013

'The Virgin Suicides' by Jeffrey Eugenides

4 April 2013

I really enjoyed Jeffrey Eugenides’ 2002 novel ‘Middlesex’ and its successor ‘The Marriage Plot’ (reviewed here in August 2012) but I have only just got around to reading the book that made his name, his 1993 debut novel ‘The Virgin Suicides’ (which was later filmed by Sofia Coppola). The concept of a story about five teenage sisters committing suicide hadn’t seemed very appealing but the book is much funnier than I was expecting. There is a macabre black humour throughout that is extremely entertaining without ever belittling the seriousness of the events. The novel is beautifully written and very witty (“[he] arrived every morning with the hopeless expression of a man draining a swamp with a kitchen sponge”). The story is told by nameless neighbours of the doomed girls through their first-hand observations of the tragic happenings and a series of interviews – many years later – with members of the family and the wider community. Eugenides builds a detailed picture of a neighbourhood containing a host of idiosyncratic characters which reminded me of John Steinbeck’s ‘Cannery Row’. And the way the narrative is constructed through interviews with the ageing protagonists long after the events they are describing made me think of ‘Citizen Kane’. ‘The Virgin Suicides’ does exactly what it says on the cover – but it’s a much more entertaining and enjoyable journey than you might expect.



Post a Comment

<< Home