Jeffrey Eugenides’s Middlesex didn’t land on my radar until graduate school, when I devoured the novel in two days, reading on the T, in line at the pharmacy, in the kitchen. I stayed up late. I cried. And then I read it again.
So it was with eager fingers that I turned the first pages of The Virgin Suicides (1993), the first of Mr. Eugenides’s three published novels.
I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s very, very different from Middlesex; it doesn’t share the sweeping scope of family, history, and geography. Instead, the focus on the girls feels almost claustrophobic; the reader is hemmed in, drawn to the inevitable, macabre conclusion the book’s title suggests.
I’d never seen this style of narration before: first person plural, never broken. The middle-aged men who look back on the Lisbon sisters and their own younger selves act as archaeologists, excavating and archiving objects and memories in an attempt to come to terms with the tragedy in their hometown. Because the narrators are just as bewildered as the reader, the novel sidesteps the available easy answers, the laying of blame.
And it’s Eugenides. The writing is breathtakingly beautiful.