The Virgin Suicides and Girl, Interrupted

If you have read my last post, I told you that I’m currently reading books that discuss the reality of suicide to teenagers. It’s true that depression, confusion and pre-mature death are common with teenagers, they are in the phase wherein they are discovering themselves, their identity, the group they belong and how they plan of their future. But sometimes, there are circumstances that just fail them to accomplish their developmental task (based on Eric Erikson’s developmental theory) and which may end them up as stagnant, confused or what we called identity crisis.

Anyway, I got curious with Jeffrey Eugenides’ debut novel entitled The Virgin Suicides which tells us the story of five beautiful Lisbon girls (Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux and Cecilia) who killed themselves. It sounds harsh to say here that they kill themselves but yes, they really did killed themselves. The novel is narrated by a boy—or a group of boys, it’s hard to identify— who have known and loved the Lisbon girls from a distance. It’s funny because no matter how much they wanted to talk to the girls, they don’t have the balls to do it. So instead, they made sort-of investigation, interviews in a descriptive details on the life of the Lisbon girls, their household and the reason why they killed themselves but no matter how many evidences they gather to connect events, there are still gaps that are unfilled. I feel for these boys and the community because they are deeply affected by the death of these beautiful young ladies. So why did they killed themselves? For me, it’s pretty obvious WHY they killed themselves. Just like I said above, they are in teenager years and they grow to discover themselves and interact with the opposite sex but unfortunately, their parents—particularly their narrow-minded and unreasonably strict mother, Mrs. Lisbon—has taken the freedom of it. They are locked up in their houses, dropped the school even. So you think you can survive the life like that? Of course not. It’s hard. I felt so sad about the girls, they has so much of a bright future before them.

I liked the way it’s narrated, it gives off the feeling that I’m one of the boys—onlookers— and have known the Lisbon girls. But most of the time, I got confused with the flow of the time in the story. There are flashbacks introduced that I didn’t realized that they are flashbacks unless I read the whole two or three pages again.

I observed too how much of the people in their community cares about the girls—forget about the parents!—like what I wrote in my journal last night:

The book shows that there are people who are concerned about certain persons. You may thought that you’re all miserable in life and no one cares, well, you’re wrong. If you just let them, they will approach you and the help will start there. Unlike the Lisbon girls, I observed that they pushed away the people, their schoolmates (take note: Locker scene-“You don’t have to talk to me” after Cecilia’s death). It’s so sad because people do care. Maybe not all, but at least someone does.

After reading it, I watched the film adaptation under the same name, Virgin Suicides (1999) directed by Sofia Coppola which is truly a brilliant one! I can’t imagine anyone can do more a good interpretation of the book than Sofia Coppola. And I think, I understood more the flow of the time and the plot in the movie that the book! But, I say, I enjoyed reading the book.

So next, is Susanna Kaysen’ memoir, Girl, Interrupted. This is written in account of the author’s experiences in a mental institution and being diagnosed of having Borderline Personality Disorder. The book don’t really follow a certain storyline with chronological events but somehow covers some of it but more focused on her reflections and realization on what happened and why she ended up being institutionalized. I liked how I get into the mind of an insane—or borderly insane person—because I want to know or understand how different they are to the sane ones. Like Ms. Kaysen, there are train of thoughts and themes about mental illness I find hard to follow (i.e., Mind vs. Brain). I tried reading the portion twice or thrice but I can’t process the thoughts. Which made me conscious and ask myself that ‘Am I insane?’. Uh-oh.

Anyway, Susanna Kaysen mostly described how she lived her life in the McLean Hospital where she met her fellow inmates there—Lisa, Georgina, Polly, Lisa Cody, Daisy, Torrey—which reminded me of the most awesome rotation I had when I was still a nursing student: The Mental Hospital. They are not really the type of persons you should be afraid of, they are fun to be with actually. And I would like to say that this book shows the readers that mentally unhealthy (not mentally ill because I find it offensive) persons can be cured, can be recovered (unless they are schizophrenic, there’s no cure with that) and yes, they can live a normal life!

Update: I loved the film adaptation! Tho there are some deviation of the story from the book, but it’s awesome. I loved how Winona Ryder as a strong yet fragile Susanna Kaysen and Angelina Jolie as ever hard-headed crazy Lisa! People should read the book and then watch the film. :)

Book #11: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Bookmarks: 3/5

My copy: Paperback; Movie tie-in cover


Book# 12: Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Bookmarks: 4/5

My copy: Paperback; Movie tie-in cover; borrowed from my cousin, Dani.

This entry was published on 18.02.11 at 3:01 pm. It’s filed under In Which I Write About Books and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “The Virgin Suicides and Girl, Interrupted

  1. Gergana on said:

    I’m really very curious about this book – Virgin Suicides. I had to read some time ago Erikson for a course project and he describes in “Identity: Youth and Crisis” some severe pathologies related to Identity confusion and a few cases of his clinical practice. And there it was, the exact same case in Chapter ІV.3 (I do not know the exact pages – my copy of the book is in Bulgarian). The only difference was that only the eldest daughter killed herself.
    So, like I said, I’m very curious – did the author of the book actually get his inspiration from Erikson’s writings or is this some weird cosmic coincidence?

    • Hello! The idea struck me curious, too! I don’t have idea if Eugenides used Erikson’s approach on identity crisis but it is possible too. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Ned Vizzini | In Lesbians with Books

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