27 Oct 2014

REVIEW: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Genre: Classic.
Publication Date: 1996 (first published 1963)
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Format: Paperback
Pages: 234
Rating: 5/5

We follow Esther Greenwood's personal life from her summer job in New York with Ladies' Day magazine, back through her days at New England's largest school for women, and forward through her attempted suicide, her bad treatment at one asylum and her good treatment at another, to her final re-entry into the world like a used tyre: "patched, retreaded, and approved for the road" ... Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing.

I don’t remember how I discovered The Bell Jar, but I know it’s been on my TBR for the longest time. I’ve checked it out from the library two times before and I always returned it unread for some reason. I don’t know why, but I do know that I regret that because I totally needed this book in my life.

I think it’s actually become one of my favourite books of all time, and definitely one of my favourite classics. There are so many reasons I love this book. Firstly, the writing – it’s just beautiful. I don’t really know how to describe it, but it’s amazing. Some of the ideas and events in this book are quite confronting at times, but the language is so beautiful that I didn’t feel like I was reading about such a heavy subject. I feel I should probably mention at this point, that this is my first experience of reading Sylvia Plath (and now I love her). Back to the heavy subjects- I think they were expressed really well in the book. I’m sure you’re all aware of Sylvia Plath’s own history of depression, so it makes sense that it was written so realistically.

Finally, I want to talk about Esther Greenwood – the narrator. The Bell Jar is semi-autobiographical, so it makes sense that Esther is quite realistic, but I found that I could connect to her a lot more than I anticipated. There are a few superficial similarities between us – we’re the same age, both writers etc. but there’s a deeper level to it to. Esther doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, and I was feeling the exact same way only a few months ago. She’s definitely not a role model for how to sort your life out or anything, but it’s a nice reminder that you’re never really alone- there’s always someone who feels the same way you do, even if she’s just a character in a novel.

Tell me your thoughts about The Bell Jar, if you’ve read it or suggest where I should go next with Sylvia’s works. If you haven’t read any Sylvia, you should definitely try her out.

Also, I decided to post this review today because it would have been Sylvia’s eighty-second birthday today. So Happy Birthday Sylvia!