Monday Night Book Club: The Virgin Suicides

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by Abigail Fisher

One of author Jeffery Eugenides most appealing qualities is his versatile yet consistent writing style. The themes and characters of his novels vary across the human experience, but always come across as honest. The Virgin Suicides, Eugenides’ first book, is no exception and remains one of my favorite novels of all time. Written from the point of view of neighborhood boys in a small Michigan suburb, The Virgin Suicides investigates the mysterious life (and death) of the five Lisbon girls. Beautiful and unique sister’s Lux, Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Cecilia all commit suicide within the same year, confusing and saddening their small quiet town. The neighborhood boys are obsessed with infiltrating and decoding the lives of the Lisbon girls, but womanhood proves too mysterious, leaving them without answers or resolution.

Eugenides did an amazing job of describing the raw and confusing world of a teenage girl. Through the five sisters, he shows the endless variation of sadness, happiness and fear that accompanies entering adulthood. Lux in particular, deals with her burgeoning sexuality in opposition to a strict mother and father. Eugenides dismal portrayal of the Lisbon’s home life makes it easy to see how such repressed youth could lead to the sister’s suicides.

Sofia Coppola directed the film adaptation in 1999, bringing the ethereal world of the Lisbon girls to life. The film stays true to most of the book, but has a greater focus on Lux (played by Kirsten Dunst) than the book does. Other than some small discrepancies, Coppola does a superb job of matching the aura of the book to the film. I had a hard time deciding which one I loved more (the book always wins with me though). A must read and a must watch, both versions of The Virgin Suicides will always hold a special place in my heart.

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