Following reading Middlesex by author Jeffrey Eugenides I opted not to track down his other novels not because I didn’t like Middlesex but because I really did. He seemed to create this complex world fraught with identity issues that just seemed to inhabit my brain for the duration – one of my friends is very well aware how much I loved this book, I barely shut up about it! It’s been a couple of years since I read Middlesex and I thought I would try his first offering, The Virgin Suicides, published in 1993 and later turned into the well received 1999 film, written and directed by Sofia Coppola*.
Set in 1970’s Michigan the story is told to us in retrospect by a man who was once part of the stereotypically voyeuristic neighbourhood boys obsessed with the odd and distant nature of the five Lisbon girls, leading up to and the aftermath of their suicides. Their role or lack there of in the girl’s lives despite their desire and attempts to touch them, both physically and emotionally, is told to us through day to day teenage existence and dry comedy, all tinged with a deep sadness which reflects how far five girls, not of this world long, had the potential to effect their surroundings. This is shown in the story through the evolution of not only their family home but also the surrounding neighbourhood and its occupants.
Enjoying such a subject doesn’t seem quite right and I wouldn’t say it had the drive of a ‘page-turner’, again due to the nature of the subject, but there is a style that Eugenides seems to embody that just makes you get lost in a world. To me his books feel like looking at an old photograph but having someone behind you to tell you a part of the back story, not all of it but just enough to keep you involved.
It’s not quite as good as Middlesex but it certainly leaves a mark.
*always assume I haven’t seen the film.