Debbie Petersen's Reviews > The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
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Sep 11, 08

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Read in September, 2008, read count: twice

Where to begin. I have read some of the reviews of others who did not care for or get this book. I admit that the plot/storyline, though unique, is not what makes this story great--it's the prose. The writing is luminous and reads more like poetry than a novel. We don't even know exactly who the narrators are--it is narrated in first person plural and the name and even number of narrators is left vague. Eugenides uses metaphor to describe the deaths of the sisters as the disintegration of a suburban neighborhood--the trees are being cut down because of the threat of Dutch Elm disease; there are dying flies everywhere that are described by the first sister to commit suicide as not even having time to eat before their lives are over. There are so many themes in the story--going through the layers is akin to peeling an onion. The writing is so lovely that it induces a dreamlike state in the reader. Everything is described so perfectly that you can not only see clearly what is being described, but smell the various smells and recall with clarity everything from that time period. Eugenides did not throw this book together; in my mind's eye I see him sitting at his desk turning each phrase over and over in his hands until he gets it exactly right. Yet, the writing is not strained at all--in fact, it seems to have flowed effortlessly from his pen. This is a gifted writer whose work will be read for generations to come, long after Eat, Pray, Gag is in the remainder pile. Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, Robert James Waller, John Grisham, read this and weep. To this list I add myself, since I would give anything to be able to write half as well as Eugenides. As for those who look for a conventional plot line like all of the other books out there and do not find it (why EXACTLY did the girls kill themselves?) In the real world, not everything in life can be explained.

I loved the book so much that I immediately rented the movie. It was awful, with the exception of James Wood who nailed the part of the father beautifully.
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Michael Debbie-

I forgot how much I loved this book until I read your review. You description of the book and the writing are spot on. I have to say, I loved the movie, but I also read the book when it first came out, so there was a bit of time between reading and viewing. I don't think any movie adaptation is good enough to stand up to back to back experiences.

Thanks for reminding me of this book, Debbie. I think it will probably end up on an episode of Books on the Nightstand in the future, all thanks to you!


message 9: by Eileen (new)

Eileen Debbie, I didn't know this was a book until you placed it on your list. I saw the movie on television and didn't like it, either. Perhaps I'll give the book a read.


Jennifer (aka EM) Hi, Debbie ... I've been meaning to get around to this since reading Middlesex, which I loved.

I'll come back with a better response to your review once I do, but just before ... I laughed at your "This is a gifted writer whose work will be read for generations to come, long after Eat, Pray, Gag is in the remainder pile. Elizabeth Gilbert, Chris Bohjalian, Jodi Picoult, Robert James Waller, John Grisham, read this and weep."

I may be a bit of an elitist, and certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from reading mediocrity if that is what they choose, but the following some of these authors achieve far surpasses the quality of their writing. Eugenides seems to be one of those rare authors who writes accessible work of literary merit.

I'm off to the bookstore to get this one. Thanks so much for the reminder.


John Otto What a beautifully written review. I'm impressed by your writing.


Katrina Hughes Fabulous review Debbie!


Luxia I thought the movie was almost better than the film. The music was beautiful and Kirsten Dunst NAILED the part of Lux. Just my opinion :) .


Vicky Garrido I couldn't have said it any better myself.


Katie Comfort Thank you for a wonderfully written review! I too just said to my sister the other day how I wish I could write half as well as Eugenides! I think I'm spoiled by his artistry as everything else I read now pales in comparison. Wishing he had more for us to read than just 3 novels.


John Otto Great, review, Debbie. I'm in the middle of Eugenides's latest book, "The Marriage Plot," and I'm curious what you think of it. I'm disappointed but then I'm biased against books by writing professors about writing students.


Sharon Great review. I just now started this book, but have to say, books are nearly always better than the movie. In my opinion, the only movies, comperable to their books, was "The Help", and "Water for elephants".


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