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Published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides was Jeffrey Eugenides’s first ever novel.  Set in America in the 1970s, it’s a woefully distressing story of the suicide stories of five sisters, one after the other. Though this is his debut novel, Eugenides never makes you feel that at any point through the novel. He has also won the Pulitzer prize for his other novel, Middlesex.

The Virgin Suicides is a remarkable fable and a realistic portrayal of life in America in the 1970s. The story is about the five sisters of a Catholic family and starts with a suicide attempt by the eldest, Cecilia. As luck would have had it, she fails but kills herself the next time around by jumping out of a window and landing on a fence post causing death by impalement. This death sparks off a series of deaths in the family with mystery surrounding almost each of those. The way the writer speaks about Cecilia’s suicide starting an epidemic of a kind. The sisters had always been under the control of their tyrannical mother. In fact, at the homecoming dance, when the surviving four sisters went out on a group date and Lux stayed late, their mother got them out of school and incarcerated them at home.

The girls obviously, started to find multiple methods to meet the boys at their home. Despite the mother’s attempts, Lux’s pregnancy scare throws off the entire family and they just stop venturing out of their house. The parents would not move out even for the daily necessaries like groceries. And finally, the day comes. All the girls commit mass suicide exactly a year after Cecilia’s first attempt. The parents leave the neighbourhood and the house sold off. Thus ends the sad tale of the five sisters.

The writer tells the entire story from the eyes of the anonymous boyfriend of one of the girls. The entire novel is written as a flashback and that I think, is one of the most interesting ways to story-tell such a plot. There are a couple of references to the girls by some more narrators and that helps to add a new perspective to the plot. The novel is a classic example of dark humour which is also an elegy by nature.  Eugenides has managed to create an amusing and heart-warming piece of fiction with his first novel – The Virgin Suicides.

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