21 November, 2013

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides [Ana, Central Library]

Jeffrey Eugenides most recent book is The Marriage Plot but The Virgin Suicides is very good too and I have chosen this one now.
More than a ‘coming of age’, I would call this novel an “interrupted coming of age”.  The five daughters of the Lisbon family all commit suicide while each is in their teens.  The reader is already prepared for this from the title of the novel, so it is not as shocking as it might be.  
The members of the Lisbon family keep very much to themselves; the parents are jealous guardians of their children -they cannot go out except to attend school or go to church.  In spite of their private way of living, the family is very much under surveillance, as their neighbours - and especially the teenage boys -  spend a lot of time spying on the girls.
The most intrepid boy talks to Mr Lisbon, who is a teacher in their school, and after much insistence he gets permission to take the four girls (Cecilia is already dead) out with his mates. The parents insist that they should all stay together and be back at 11:00 pm, and Mr and & Mrs Lisbon let them go.  The girls really enjoy themselves but Lux arrives home late - after the others - so that is the end of their outings. The house, and the surroundings, start to deteriorate and the inhabitants retreat completely inside the house.  The four remaining Lisbon girls commit suicide, each in her own way.
Why do they all commit suicide? The novel, or the neighbours speculate:  has capitalism brought spiritual bankruptcy? Were the girls deficient in serotonin? (serotoning is a mood regulator). Was it something sick in the heart of the country that had infected the girls? Or was it that they felt, in their isolation, already more dead than alive?
The novel is written in a cynical and black humour, both sad and funny at the same time, and certainly without any sentimentality.

 Title:              The Virgin Suicides
Author:Jeffrey Eugenides
Publish info:New York : Farrar Strauss & Giroux, 1993.

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