Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Official Synopsis from Amazon: The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under — maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.


Genre: Fiction, Classic Literature
Setting: Early 1950s Boston and New York City
My copy came from: I borrowed The Bell Jar from my mom.

Review: Stunning and powerful. A must read.

Sylvia Plath’s lone novel is astounding in its honesty and bluntness about Esther Greenwood and her journey with depression. I finished this book a while ago, and have honestly really struggled to write an adequate review of the book. I loved this book so much, and really connected with the character of Esther.

I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.

Esther is interning at a magazine in New York City, and she watches the world and the other girls around her and feels separate from everyone. She attempts suicide and ends up in an institution and undergoes both shock therapy and insulin therapy.

All the while I was reading The Bell Jar, the haunting image from the movie Requiem for a Dream, where Ellen Burstyn’s character undergoes shock therapy kept running through my head. (While that movie is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, it is one movie that I refuse to watch again. I just don’t think I could handle it.)

The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.

Sylvia Plath’s writing is so simple and pure here. I was surprised at how readable this book was. I always feel intimidated by anything deemed a classic, thinking that there’s no way I will understand it, and I’m always so surprised when the book ends up being more readable than I expect. The writing surprised me. I was expecting it to be difficult and weighty, flowery and full of detail, but it was very easy to read and I really loved how Plath writes. I want to read more of her poetry and writings.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.
I am, I am, I am.

With Plath’s personal history with depression, there is a relatable and honest feel to The Bell Jar. It is relevant and powerful and I believe this is a book that everyone should read. Sorry this is a short review, I just can’t adequately speak to the power and importance of this book.

Bottom Line: Read this. Read this. Read this.

Links to The Bell Jar on Amazon and   Goodreads

Have you read or studied The Bell Jar? Have you read any of Sylvia Plath’s other works?


15 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

  1. I did read and enjoy the book, but actually I loved her poetry more. I don’t read a lot of poetry, mainly because of what you say about the classics – I find it difficult to understand. But Plath writes with that same simplicity in her poetry, so although there’s loads of depth to it that I might be missing, it’s still hugely powerful and leaves some incredible images behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow – good to know about her poetry! I’m not a huge fan of poetry, like you I find it difficult, but I feel that her poetry might be some that I really love. I really enjoyed how she wrote and will definitely be checking her poetry out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your review may have been short, and you may have felt inadaquacies when writing it, but I know know I must read this book! On my list now, near the top! Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I also feel intimidated by classics so I’m happy you enjoyed it, it makes me think I might too! I have heard lots of great things about this book so I need to find the courage to read it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope you gather that courage to tackle this classic soon! This one felt less “classic-y” than other classics (if that makes any sense at all). And my copy was just 244 pages long, so it’s pretty short compared to many classics!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t read this either. About classics, I guess their approachability is what makes them the titans they are. The featured text here, they have such simple use of the language and yet, the effect is powerful.
    Great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this book- it’s so accessible and yet so haunting, Plath’s writing is just amazing! Have you ever read any of her poetry, the feelings that come out in it are incredible, if only she’d lived longer and produced more amazing literature. Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes, I agree about the book being so accessible – that really surprised me when I read it. I haven’t gotten into her poetry yet – I really want to read it though! I love her writing; she was so talented!

      Liked by 1 person

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