Sunday, January 17, 2016

3. The Virgin Suicides

Oh no! It's my first late post of the year! Only one day late, though, so I hope you'll forgive me. Plus, the reason it was late was because of busyness, not because I didn't finish my reading, so I'm more comfortable with it.

The benefit of waiting a day is that I got to give this book the time and energy it deserves. I loved reading this one, I really fell into it, and I wanted to make sure I "sell" it, for lack of a better word, and make you all understand just why I loved this novel.

With that in mind, book 3 of Project 84 is...

Virgin Suicides 
The Virgin Suicides 
By Jeffrey Eugenides

Every now and then, you read a book and you can't quite figure out why you love it. For all intents and purposes, it shouldn't be much of a book at all. It's short, it's strange, you know the ending from the title...but, for some reason, you can't help but bury yourself in it. It becomes a fast favorite, but you can't quite figure out why.

The Virgin Suicides is one of those books.

I read another Eugenides book, Middlesex, back in the first incarnation of Project 84. (In case you missed it, you can find that review here). I loved Middlesex, so I'm not sure why it took me so by surprise that I also loved this book, but it did. I think it's because I'm usually someone who prefers things plot-driven when it comes to my fiction, and this book most certainly is not.

The plot is almost nonexistent, and, as I mentioned before, you know what the ending will be from the title of the book. But here goes: this book is the story of the Lisbon sisters. Five lovely, blonde teenagers living in Michigan during the 1970s. You know from page 1...these sisters are tragically doomed, and the book plays out accordingly.

What's fascinating about this book is not the plot, though I am a pretty big fan of "unusual". The interesting part of this narrative for me is the way the story is presented. The story of the Lisbon sisters is told from the point of view of a group of boys who lived on their street. The story is told in first person plural (!!!), so no one character can be labeled the 'narrator'.

There's something about the narration approach that I really respond to. In a lot of ways, it reads like a piece of investigative journalism. In fact, the narrators actually refer to certain items in the story as "Exhibit 1" and "Exhibit 15", etc. Reading this book so soon after Columbine, I could connect the writing styles, even though this book is fiction and that was a true tale.

The most interesting part of the narrative to me is the way Eugenides approaches the "motive" of these 5 girls. The narration limits us in how much we can know about why the sisters did what they did. As the narrator puts it:
“We’d like to tell you with authority what it was like inside the Lisbon house, or what the girls felt being imprisoned in it. Sometimes, drained by this investigation, we long for some shred of evidence, some Rosetta stone that would explain the girls at last.” – Page 164
But, somehow, not really knowing the motivations of the girls was one of the things I liked most about this story. The reason is ellusive. The boys don't know, they can't know, what's going on in the girls' heads. And as frustrating that may be when you want a conclusion, it also puts you into the world of the book so much easier. Rather than an omniscient reader, you become entrenched in the town, and realize what their neighbors - and these obsessed boys - were going through.

As should be clear at this point, I would recommend you read this book. It's weird, and cool, and interesting, and the plus side is it's only 250 pages so it's not something you have to invest in the way you would with Middlesex. Read it. You won't regret it.

There we go! Book 3 in the books, so to speak. Expect a Sunday Update later tonight to let you know what's coming this week, and be sure to follow this blog on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads to see what's coming up.

Happy reading, everyone!

Next Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Expected Posting Date: Tuesday, January 19th)

**All quotes and annotations refer to this version of The Virgin Suicides, published by Picador in 2009**

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