The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides | Skillshare Projects

Jessica Hurley

Graphic Designer



The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Book/Author: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Opening Line:  "On the morning the last Lisbon  daughter took her turn at suicide – it was Mary this time, and sleeping pills, like Therese – the two paramedics arrived at the house knowing exactly where the knife drawer was, and the gas oven, and the beam in the basement from which it was possible to tie a rope."

Closing Line:  "It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together."


This book had always been a favorite of mine, as morbid as it is. The Lisbon girls are a beautiful disaster. Their story is told through the middle-aged voice of the neighborhood boys who used to love them (and probably still do). It is set in 1970s Michigan. It was also made into a movie directed by Sofia Coppala. The characters interact very little and that just adds to the mystery surrounding the sisters, never once being exposed to their inner thoughts. Ultimately it is a love story (angsty, teenage, worshippy) with all the subtleties that young love should require pre-internet, cell phones, & facebook.  I've already read it a few times, but I'm looking forward to reading it again.      

I tried to put these covers in chronological order but I'm not 100% confident that I got it right. I enjoy the simplicity of the hair close-up one cover #1, but I always picture the sisters as blondes so it doesn't work for me. Also not a fan of the type treatment. I understand the symbology on Cover 6: five sisters=5 roses, suicide/death=roses are dead. I don't all together hate that, but I don't feel the association with the rose itself. Definitely flowers (it was the 70s) but more daisies, daffodils, dandelions (all referenced in the book). I think my favorites are 3 & 5 with 4 close behind. 3 is a still of Kirsten Dunst from the movie, and I don't neccessarily like putting a face or even a photograph on the cover, but I love the use of white space and I think the title font works.  Number 5 also uses plenty of white space and I like that the photograph is vague.  I do not like the type treatment; it feels almost western or Little House on the Prairie-ish.

Motifs, Concepts, Quotes: love, loss, death, nastalgia, glorification/distortion of memories, making sense of the past, memorializing, artifacts, greek tragedy, suburban myths, community & neighborhood fascination, adolescence, loss of innocense, complexity of adulthood, mystery, religion, relics/idols, suffering, isolation, the horror of the mundane, hypocrisy, irony, the american dream, beauty.

“In the end we had the pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained, oddly shaped emptinesses mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn't name.” 

“Added to their loveliness was a new mysterious suffering, perfectly silent, visible in the blue puffiness beneath their eyes or the way they would sometimes stop in mid-stride, look down, and shake their heads as though disagreeing with life.” 

“It was the combination of many factors... With most people, suicide is like Russian roulette. Only one chamber has a bullet. With the Lisbon girls, the gun was loaded. A bullet for family abuse. A bullet for genetic predisposition. A bullet for historical malaise. A bullet for inevitable momentum. The other two bullets are impossible to name, but that doesn't mean the chambers were empty.” 

Imagery: brassiere draped over a crucifix in the girls' bedroom | virgin mary prayer card | rosary beads | travel brochures | rock records | cecilia's antique wedding dress cut at the knees


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