Five sisters raised by middle class, religious parents in the American suburbs kill themselves. This is the stark, bare bones of what Jeffrey Eugenides presents you with on the first page of The Virgin Suicides. The rest of the book, in a heady stupor of hindsight and painful memory, serves to garnish the fact, to paint the picture of why the girls killed themselves, and why years later the boys who had been obsessed with them are still unable to let go.

The perspective Eugenides’s narrator provides on the events (which reads as almost a collective reflection) is superbly executed. We see the girls wax and wane through a prism of incomprehension. The boys saw the sisters’ actions and were absolutely at a loss to understand them, but were captivated still. This is what forms the heart of the story, and what makes it so utterly enthralling.

It is by far the best novel whose central characters are teenagers I have ever read. The reason behind this, what made it so otherly, I found difficult to put my finger on, although it has most likely to do with the lack of acknowledgement of the fact. The most interesting thing about the girls is not their age, in fact it’s arguably the apparent lack thereof. They defy any real age bracket, becoming in the boys’ minds ethereal, passing far beyond what we could refer to as ‘teenage girl’, and are therefore presented to the reader as such. Our narrator describes the heroines as ‘women in disguise’ and even the youngest among them are accepted as such.

It’s an incredibly moving book, and one which has in parts as much a power to make you laugh as cry. It was also a startlingly easy read, far more absorbing than the heavy content should really have allowed it to be, but by the end you are as obsessed with the girls as the narrator, who as he writes seems to be revolting against the tie the girls have had on him, scratching them from the skin even in exalting them. They stay with you in the same way; Cecilia in the bath with her laminated Madonna, the sisters trapped by their overly protective mother, steam-filled bathrooms and cupboards of Tampax. Eugenides catches you in their grasp and they’ll haunt you.