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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

The Virgin Suicides: A Novel

The Virgin Suicides: A Novel - Jeffrey Eugenides

Because it's Jeffrey Eugenides, I want to give this book five stars. Of all living contemporary authors I've read, Eugenides is my favorite. I'm sure it won't be long before I come across another writer who impresses me more—there are so many to discover—but for the time being, Eugenides is the man. Middlesex was fun, heartbreaking, and surprisingly wonderful. The Marriage Plot an under-appreciated character-driven novel.

And yet, I want to give The Virgin Suicides three stars because, in truth, I didn't care that much for it. I found the unified narrative voice to be grating; it was one I never felt like I could identify with. The narrative structure, largely a summation of all the events that took place so long ago, didn't work for me. This is perhaps my own issue, my own personal distaste, as I had the same qualm with Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao , a novel that implemented a nearly identical style. (The primary difference between the two is that Oscar Wao's narrator was given a name and supporting role while Virgin Suicide's narrator remains a vague member of the collective). The whole “and so and so did so and so, then so and so did such and such” fails to grab my attention. I find that voice lacking in so many ways, especially when that voice has no personality of its own. And when that voice tells me about how this family rakes their leaves this way, this family raked their leaves that way, and that family rake their leaves this way, well...

But, because it was Eugenides' first and because it wasn't so much that the writing was bad as it was that it didn't resonate with me, I'm settling for four stars. There's some great writing in here and the story—what little bit of it is really in here—is good.

It just goes to show how much perspective plays in a part in ratings. Had I never read any of Eugenides' other works, I would've given this three stars at best and probably not returned to him for quite some time. Since I've read and loved both Middlesex and The Marriage Plot, however, I give the book an extra star and eagerly await Eugenides' next. Sometimes the rating system can never do justice.