I remember watching the movie The Virgin Suicides (1999) as a teenager, maybe at 14 years old. I couldn’t resist the movie poster of it – the beautiful Kirsten Dunst who seems to be looking at you and through you at the same time. And of course, there was the title – how was I going to ignore something so dramatic, something that was almost calling to me as a young woman who constantly felt misunderstood and out of place?
So finally, after having the novel on my reading list for many years, I read The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides within four or five reading sessions. I was actually surprised at how true to the book the movie was, at least in comparison to many adaptations that you see in the theatres nowadays.
The Lisbon girls; Mary, Therese, Bonnie, Lux and Cecilia; are five teenage girls between the ages 13 and 17, who live a restricted suburban life which quickly becomes a prison sentence. Their mother; a paranoid, tyrannical, controlling woman; and their father; a docile, wet-wipe high school teacher; play the title roles in their daughters suicides. The novel states some heartbreaking facts about suicide in young people in America, as well as mental health stigma that continues to this day.
Maybe it wasn’t the wisest reading choice for somebody going through similar emotions to the girls; depression, anxiety, feeling stuck and without control; but maybe that’s what made it such a good reading choice. In some ways it provides comfort – making one feel less alone in how one is feeling.
Here are some key quotes from the novel that I had to share:
I don’t know what you’re feeling. I won’t even pretend.
Something that I wish those who felt sympathy but not empathy when it comes to mental health would say, rather than trying to give practical advice. More often than not, listening is more important than trying to solve the problem.
Capitalism has resulted in material well-being but spiritual bankruptcy.
Spiritualism certainly doesn’t seem to fit in with the concept of capitalism. To me, capitalism is a different kind of religion that we follow, something that promises great happiness if you follow certain rules.
The world, a tired performer, offers us another half-assed season.
I just love this sentence. Describes most of the weather that we see here in the UK.
What my yia yia could never understand about America was why everyone pretended to be happy all the time.
Something that confuses me also – society’s need to see us plastering smiles on our faces all the time, regardless of how we are feeling. When did we become so uncomfortable with human emotion? What’s so wrong about needing to cry?
Adolescents tend to seek love where they can find it.
All too true for my teenage years.
We just want to live. If anyone would let us.
Don’t we all?