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The Virgin Suicides: A Novel Hardcover – April 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eugenides's tantalizing, macabre first novel begins with a suicide, the first of the five bizarre deaths of the teenage daughters in the Lisbon family; the rest of the work, set in the author's native Michigan in the early 1970s, is a backward-looking quest as the male narrator and his nosy, horny pals describe how they strove to understand the odd clan of this first chapter, which appeared in the Paris Review , where it won the 1991 Aga Khan Prize for fiction. The sensationalism of the subject matter (based loosely on a factual account) may be off-putting to some readers, but Eugenides's voice is so fresh and compelling, his powers of observation so startling and acute, that most will be mesmerized. The title derives from a song by the fictional rock band Cruel Crux, a favorite of the Lisbon daughter Lux--who, unlike her sisters Therese, Mary, Bonnie and Cecilia, is anything but a virgin by the tale's end. Her mother forces Lux to burn the album along with others she considers dangerously provocative. Mr. Lisbon, a mild-mannered high school math teacher, is driven to resign by parents who believe his control of their children may be as deficient as his control of his own brood. Eugenides risks sounding sophomoric in his attempt to convey the immaturity of high-school boys; while initially somewhat discomfiting, the narrator's voice (representing the collective memories of the group) acquires the ring of authenticity. The author is equally convincing when he describes the older locals' reactions to the suicide attempts. Under the narrator's goofy, posturing banter are some hard truths: mortality is a fact of life; teenage girls are more attracted to brawn than to brains (contrary to the testimony of the narrator's male relatives). This is an auspicious debut from an imaginative and talented writer. Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Eugenides's remarkable first novel opens on a startling note: "On the morning the last Lisbon daughter took her turn at suicide... the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope." What follows is not, however, a horror novel, but a finely crafted work of literary if slightly macabre imagination. In an unnamed town in the slightly distant past, detailed in such precise and limpid prose that readers will surely feel that they grew up there, Cecilia--the youngest and most obviously wacky of the luscious Lisbon girls--finally succeeds in taking her own life. As the confused neighbors watch rather helplessly, the remaining sisters become isolated and unhinged, ending it all in a spectacular multiple suicide anticipated from the first page. Eugenides's engrossing writing style keeps one reading despite a creepy feeling that one shouldn't be enjoying it so much. A black, glittering novel that won't be to everyone's taste but must be tried by readers looking for something different. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.
- Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 249 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (April 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374284385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374284381
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (599 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #287,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jeffrey Eugenides was born in Detroit and attended Brown and Stanford Universities. His first novel, The Virgin Suicides, was published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux to great acclaim in 1993, and he has received numerous awards for his work.

Customer Reviews

I read this book in a single day...I literally could not put it down.
Laura R. Gilpin
It is a unique story, where we never really understand the main characters, while getting to know very minor characters.
J. D. Weeks
Although quite dark and somewhat without feeling, this book is beautifully written and very interesting.
Annie Harsh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

231 of 246 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Setterfield on August 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
Wow. What a fabulous, page-turning, fascinating book! It's been two years since I saw the movie, but from what I can remember, the movie doesn't do this book justice. Maybe it is the unique style of the narrative that made me love it so, or the sweet obsession of the narrators...I don't know what exactly, but The Virgin Suicides was simply wonderful despite the morbid subject.
Set in 1970s suburbia, The Virgin Suicides tells the story of the Lisbon family from the point of view of a group of boys living in the same neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon are both sort of boring and normal, but their five daughters, Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux and Cecilia are exotic and different from their parents, it's hard to imagine how it happened. The story opens with the suicide of Mary, the last in the "year of the suicides" of the five sisters. From there, the story starts at the beginning as seen through the eyes of the neighborhood boys and is compiled through heresay, interviews, diary entries, personal contact, and their avid spying. What is so unique about this story is since it is told from an outside perspective, the answers to many questions remain unanswered, only assumed.
The Virgin Suicides takes readers through a year in the life of the Lisbon sisters, their untimely demise, the speculations of the neighborhood, as well as the unraveling of the Lisbon family. A tender, lively story with the ending already known, but fascinating to see how it gets there. I was impressed over and over and highly recommend this profound, moving novel.
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221 of 238 people found the following review helpful By Cassandra on May 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you read the "virgin suicides" expecting answers, explanations, or any kind of analysis on how 5 teenage sisters ended up commiting suicide, one after the'll be disappointed. After you reach the last of the 250 very well written pages,you realise that Jeffrey Eugenides hasn't revealed anything more than you knew from page one: the only thing the reader knows is that the 5 blond, almost indistinguishable Lisbon sisters commit suicide one by one.
The story is told through the eyes and ears of the neighbourhood boys. Teenage boys who are obssessed with the Lisbon sisters and watch their lives and deaths (or what they know of their lives and deaths) step by step. So, in the end, all we get to know about this tragic story, is through these teenage boys' eyes. It's like we are watching the chorus in an ancient greek tragedy: the chorus watches from afar, feels sorrow and pain, but doesn't know or reveal much.
This fact of not knowing, of not understanding the whys and the hows of the story, adds an almost surreal quality to the book. Eugenides is a very gifted new author, and manages to create a great book, even though with the total absence of characterization (the 5 sisters are almost described as one single person)as well as the total absence of feeling or explanation, this could prove to be tricky. But he does it skillfully and in the end, this fact of not knowing adds to the book.
A very sad, mysterious, deeply moving novel, a novel where the reader has to read between the lines to feel and understand. My only complaint was the short length of the book, but all in all: I strongly recommend it
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88 of 93 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Virgin Suicides would seem to be just another tragic tale of American suburbia, but Eugenides transforms it into a unique masterpiece. For starters, the story of the five Lisbon suicides is told from the perspective of an adolescent boy who, along with his friends, is obsessed with the mysterious Lisbon sisters. This gives the book an interesting, and often humorous, perspective on growing up, but only adds to the mystery surrounding the Lisbon house, as the boys have little real information to relate to the reader. One sees the Lisbon house as a depressing place to live, but can never really know its inhabitants. Cecilia's suicide attempt starts the book, but one can never understand why everything surrounding the event is so nonchalant, as though it were a preordained event. Similarly, one never really gets to know the surviving Lisbon sisters; they are all one mold, differentiated by a few images presented in various chapters. With any other author, this lack of character development would be profoundly frustrating, but Eugenides makes it work. One comes to share the obsession the neighborhood boys have for the Lisbon sisters, and the obsession, combined with the mystery surrounding the girls, makes it difficult to put the book down. Eugenides is a brilliant writer, the book is almost flawless, and, at just under 250 pages, it can be read in a sitting. I cannot recommend this title enough.
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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By James J. Hastings on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
From the very title to the opening words of Jeffrey Eugenides' atmospheric novel, you the reader know what you are in for. There is no surprise in the outcome of the book -- and that's the beauty of it. Eugenides instead concentrates on bringing to life the characters, suburban neighborhood and atmosphere of the Lisbon girls and their lives.
The novel is about both the sisters and the boys who are infatuated with them. On a personal level I could relate having grown up in suburbia just five house down the block from the beautiful Williams sisters. My friends and I would sit outside their house on the curb dying to know what goes on in those rooms.
Eugenides' treatment of the suicides is dark and real. He takes these moments and details them as if they were poetry. Without trying to sound morbid, you seriously will be dying to get to the climax of the novel which takes it's time and occurs with such straighforward description that you can almost hear the ominous music that should accompany the situation.
I'm not a literary scholar and I don't pretend to be; I read and finish about 30 books a year (which I think is a goodly amount) and watch a lot of movies; I work as a copywriter in a big city publishing house and am trying to finish my own novel at the same time; and I have to say that this is the BEST book I have ever read. I've never really felt a book as much as this one.
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