*Just a note to say that this post discusses suicide and some may find it triggering*
One of my absolute favourite Booktubers is Sanne over at booksandquills and I read a lot of books on her recommendation. The Virgin Suicides was one of them. I like coming of age stories and the like so I put this on my wishlist on Bookmooch, a site where you can swap books for free. Quite a while after I had requested it, and forgotten about it, I got a copy in the post.
The Virgin Suicides is in many ways for me like the film The Tree of Life. One of the major themes is memory and perception of other people and both are set in leafy suburban America. The Virgin Suicides is the story of the 5 Lisbon sisters all of whom kill themselves. The sisters’ story is recalled by a group of boys who watch them with wonder from across the street. and stole precious few moments with them before their tragic end.
I can’t really describe the plot because not much happens and right from the beginning you know that all the sisters are going to die. What is so captivating about this book is the writing. The narrative is filled with the heady awe of the boys, none of whom we really get to meet or know. Some are referred to by name but you can never grasp the full picture. How many boys are there? Who is telling the story right now? It is as the reader has been invited to read a very private diary in which not everything is explain because only people who already know have access to it.
Similarly, we never really get to know the Lisbon sisters. We are only presented with the boys vision of them, not who they really are. Of course they romanticise and build them up to be impossible people and sometimes as the reader we see a little more of the truth as we can remove ourselves from the boys adoration. This has the effect of making everything appear to happen behind a veil; an in between space of people who don’t really exist.
I really recommend this book. It feels to me like a discussion about escape. The boys try to escape the boredom of their conservative neighbourhood, the girls try to escape the boredom of their stifled lives. For the boys the girls are the escape and for the girls the escape is suicide. Neither is healthy, neither brings happiness, only a strange infatuation with something that is forbidden and incomprehensible. Read this book it is so well written. It is consuming and absorbing and fascinating. It is a work of art in that it joins seamlessly the style and narrative so that everything overlaps and fills you with heady intrigue.
Would recommend to: contemporary fiction lovers.