Margot's Reviews > The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
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's review
Aug 06, 2010

really liked it
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I saw "The Virgin suicides" directed by Sofia Coppola years ago. I liked the story; it affected me a lot because of the many levels that are hidden in that story. After seeing the movie, I discovered the book, and I saw it so many times at my book store. But I never decided myself to buy it and read it. I thought that I would not like the book like I loved the movie; which is rare because I prefer books to movies most of the time. After years and years of hesitation, I finally bought it a few weeks ago and my only regret is to not have done it before.

I realized first that Sofia Coppola has been so closed to the book and its atmosphere that I didn't really feel any kind of differences. I used to say that Coppola creates in all her movies this kind of bubble of silence. It's heavy and light at the same time; it captures you for the length of the movie and even after. It's a true experience and journey with the characters. This is particularly true in "Virgin Suicides". But let's go back to the book.

Jeffrey Eugenides chose such a complicated and critical subject to talk about. Suicide. People don't talk about it, even nowadays. I mean... of course we are talking about it, media talk about it but not really. We don't look for the reasons, the deeper cause of this act that is denying life and most of all, hope. I perfectly understand that you can reach a state where you don't believe in anything anymore, when you open your eyes in the morning light and ask yourself: "Why do I even bother?". But suicide remains a subject of darkness. When people talk about it, they whisper, they are ill at ease like it was a plague, a curse. And it was even more the case at the time in which the story of the Lisbon sisters took place. It comes to me that in one way the situation has barely evolved since. I think that the book reflects the complexity of a society where two generations coexists but can't understand one another. Like the narrator said, their grand-fathers were soldiers, heroes who were giving their lives for the country. But the generation of the narrator, this "we" who can't be more undefined and blurred, are just heroes of football matches and barbecue in the garden. It was just like the "we" had become slowly an "I" and because of that new focus, you can learn things about yourself that sometimes you would prefer to ignore. The thing that strikes me the most is the connexion between all the characters of the novel, like a thousand of silk strings tangled. And when you perform a pressure or an action of one of them, they all feel the effects of it. It's like a ripple on water. The Lisbon family is like a microcosm, a reflexion in small size of the world, and they fall one after the other, like a castle of cards. And the Lisbon sisters did it with such a pride, such a intrepid mind that it gives me chills.

I keep wondering if Cecilia was different. I got that impression that her suicide was different from her sisters' one. Maybe it's what the narrator tries to underline (or not), but I keep have that feeling that she had something different to say, not because she was mad or anything like that, but just because I think that the reason she did it what different. I think that I will never get that answer and anyway she is just a book's character but I thinkit's true that she has been the effect and not the cause and that she didn't really influence her sisters. If Lux, Therese, Mary and Bonnie killed themselves, it's truly because they had thought about it before Cecilia decided to do it.

What I appreciate the most, it's the fact that the narrators were boys (and men). And the writing is so poetic. I always thought that it was quite impossible to think that the story was told by men because the narration was so feminine. I don't know how to express my thoughts properly but there is some kind of tenderness, melancholy and poetry that I would prefer attribute to a woman. This is why that "we" is such a mystery for me. How can that family have so much impact on those boys (and men) even after years and years? How can you deal with the fact that you have thought for a while that you have reach your most incredible dreams and desires (being close of the Lisbon's sisters) and just like that, in a blink of an eye, you lost everything: innocence first, and the incredible feeling of lightness that takes you to the stars. The parents of the Lisbon's sisters ckoked me a lot. I can properly understand so much apathy and obstinacy. It's like seeing a knife coming right to you and you don't even try to avoid it or to run away. And the case of Mary is a proof of it. She survived to her sisters and she came back home. Instead of making all they could to protect their last daughter, it's just like they have said: "Oh, let's her kill herself after all. One more or one less... it doesn't even matter". Of course I don't want to be judgemental and I understand that the pain of the loss must have put them in a state of apathy and indifference but I found that horrible and pathetic.

The Lisbon's sisters have been such a mystery. They have given some pieces of them to certain people but the narrators can only embrace the total frame by recolting all the testimonies and memories of all that people. The sisters were mysterious and wanted to stay like that, because they knew that behind that enchanted mirror of mystery, there were just the awful condition they were living in: the sordid house, the intransigent mother and pensive father, the laziness of teenagehood and a feminity that were blooming, the perfume of popcorn and the taste of the Lux's raspburry lipstick, the drear life on an american neighborhood and the campaigns for a brand new shampoo that would change women's life. The object and memories that the narrators have collected through the years are just the reminiscence of a part of the Lisbon's sisters but they will never know them. They are and always have been out of reach. Strangely enough the sister that we know the most is Cecilia. She is like the messenger of the sisters, the herald who annonces the end of the world. They were dreaming of love, of exotism, of a life of adventure in a deserted island, or a life of exploration of the world from the coast of California to the desert of Africa. Their emblem would have been the gypsum flower. Do you hear that sound?... Yeah, this one: tap, tap.... tap, tap.... it's your heart. It's beating. You're alive! Love, live, laugh, cry, forgive, listen, share, and most of all BE!
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Quotes Margot Liked

Jeffrey Eugenides
“It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.”
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

Jeffrey Eugenides
“They had killed themselves over our dying forests, over manatees maimed by propellers as they surfaced to drink from garden hoses; they had killed themselves at the sight of used tires stacked higher than the pyramids; they had killed themselves over the failure to find a love none of us could ever be. In the end, the tortures tearing the Lisbon girls pointed to a simple reasoned refusal to accept the world as it was handed down to them, so full of flaws.”
Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides

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