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