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The Virgin Suicides Paperback – June 1, 1994

4.1 out of 5 stars 671 customer reviews

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446670251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446670258
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (671 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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 mysterious...so 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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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 other...you'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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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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Format: Paperback
SPOILERS AHEAD (if it's possible given the title of the book):
I love this book but I wonder if anyone, including the author, entirely understands what he has done here. Does he think the deaths of the Lisbon girls mysterious, or is it only his unreliable narrator who thinks it, a man clearly haunted as much by adolescence itself as by five long-dead girls? If you want this to stay mysterious, stop reading now.

I'm puzzled that anybody is puzzled why the Lisbon sisters all kill themselves. There are clues all through the book: at the prom, one sister asks if the boys took them out because they felt sorry for them. One reportedly cries when she can't afford to get her messed up teeth fixed, something her parents either can't or won't pay for. One says she feels like a charity child, attending this posh school because her father teaches there. They are describe as wearing last year's school clothes because the mother won't buy them any that fit (which really poor families sometimes do at thrift shops--at least then they're the right size). At the prom, they know their "shapeless sacks" dresses are wrong the minute the other girls look at them. Obviously, as much as the boys idealize and romanticize them, the girls feel like freaks and justthisclose to being outcasts--like the retarded boy the kids make fun of at the party right before Cecilia kills herself. If they don't band together and hide their family's dirty laundy, they'll be openly persecuted instead of just whispered about.

Trip dumps Lux not because they had sex, but because she showed emotional vulnerability. "I always screw up," she says--not the stuff the Kewl Girl is supposed to say. The boys don't call after the prom, even though Bonnie's date promises to.
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