Trigger warning: mentions of suicide.


The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffery Eugenides, has been my favourite book ever since I read it late last year and I found that it had a profounding impact on me and the way I view the world, but what was it about this book which made it so influential to me?


The Virgin Suicides is the debut novel written by the american author Jeffery Eugenides and was released in 1993. The story, which is set in the town of Grosse Pointe, Michigan in the 1970s, follows a year in the lives of the ultimately doomed Lisbon sisters and centres around their struggles with grief and mental health after their youngest sister, Cecilia, took her life. The novel deals with taboo topics such as suicide, sex, mental health, religious trauma, family trauma and grief that had not been explored very much in literature before it’s release in the 1990s, which is one of the main factors which caused the book to become an instant cult classic.


The story is written from the collective perspective of the young boys who live in the town and is written from an observational viewpoint of the Lisbon sisters’ lives and their untimely fates and explores the reasons why all five of the sisters had to die. The story focuses on a more romanticised version of the girls’ lives and it’s clear to see how the boys’ romantic infatuation with the sisters has distorted the story to focus more on the boys’ own understanding of the sisters’ grief compared to the girls’ own personal struggles. The book shows what it’s like to be a teenage girl through the lens of people who don’t care to truly understand what it’s like. We never get to hear the Lisbon girls’ own voice throughout the entirety of the novel which creates a detached feel to the entire book. Us as readers will never fully be able to grasp an understanding of the girls’ personal struggles which is perhaps one of the reasons why the ending of the book is quite unsatisfying. The considered reasons for why the girls may have ultimately taken their lives are investigated throughout the book but we are never left with a clear answer to the big question of ‘Why did they do what they did?’


The book is filled with a plethora of rich imagery which is used as a further tool to romanticise the girls’ lives. It is difficult to understand whether this romantic aspect to a story that is far from that is Eugenides' way of showing how there can be beauty in the things nobody wants to talk about and the things which are often ignored in society or perhaps this is just Eugenides voicing his own perspective of the girls and their lives. Perhaps even he can't understand the gravity of what the girls are going through and has to use the outsider perspective to help him voice the story. Eugenides will never know what it’s like to be a teenage girl, but he can still tell his story through a perspective other than the girls’.


The story of the five Lisbon sisters will forever be an unfinished one. We will never be able to fully understand the intricate workings of their minds and what caused all five of them to take their lives in the end. Much like in real life, we will never be satisfied with death. We do not understand it, we never did and we never will, it is simply a thing that happens to all of us at some point in our lives. It passes through us, but we cannot stop it. The Virgin Suicides is an elegy for how life and death fundamentally changes our being, whether we want it to or not.