I discovered the Virgin Suicides as an assigned reading text in college. It was a creative writing class, and we were looking that week at unique uses of POV. The Virgin Suicide had that in spades and while I don’t talk about it much anymore, I completely understood why it became a cult classic. A few classmates and I ended up watching the movie a few weeks later, and I believe that was my first Sofia Coppola film (though I’ve since of course seen Marie Anotinette), so what a way to start. If you like weird narrative structures and intense stories, you’ve got to pick up this book, or dive into the movie.
First published in 1993, The Virgin Suicides announced the arrival of a major new American novelist. In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters―beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys―commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time. Adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Sofia Coppola, The Virgin Suicides is a modern classic, a lyrical and timeless tale of sex and suicide that transforms and mythologizes suburban middle-American life.
Now, the movie trailer:
The movie stars Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, AJ Hall, Hanna Cook, Chelse Swain, Kathleen Turner, and James Woods. It captures the weird spirit of the book really well, and it’s super weird to see Kirsten Dunst, who was a little Amy March five years before, doing such dark things (YES I can work Little Women into any conversation). In reading some of the reviews, I think Roger Ebert really hits on what my creative writing class discussed: the “we” of the local boys as much as the girls. Yes, obviously, the Lisbon girls are the focal point, but what is key is that we are viewing them as the boys see them, not as they truly exist. The movie is able to capture that in a way, but it’s often overlooked.