The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath’s only novel, and it was published in 1963.
Genre: Classics, Mental Health, Feminism
The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel, and is also Sylvia Plath’s only novel, since she mostly wrote poetry. The main character, Esther Greenwood, suffers depression after spending the summer in New York to work in a magazine. She describes her state of mind as living “under a bell jar” which explains the title of the novel. Through the story, we follow her first in New York, and then through several suicide attempts, and then in different asylums that will take care of her.
Warning: I honestly believe that however great this book is, it is not fit for everyone. If you have depression or suicidal issues, DO NOT read this book. There will be a time better fit for this.
First of all, I have to say that this book is truly fascinating. The subject it deals with is not easy to talk about, however, I don’t think it could be done any other way. It is cleverly and well-written, and the main character, Esther Greenwood, is really endearing. Every time, I wanted to know what would happen next, and when she would get better, and how, etc.
Second of all, because this was really important to me, I wish I had realised what I was getting myself into before starting this book. Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing. But the parts were Ether makes her suicides attempts made me rather uneasy, if not really sick. I understand this is what makes The Bell Jar such a great book. But if I had known, I would probably have waited before reading it. If this is something that makes you uneasy, you have to know what you will get yourself into before starting the book!
Another thing I wanted to talk about was Esther herself, and her personality. In many ways, I found her relatable, and could do nothing but admire her. You can’t do much about depression, except get help, and this book showed it perfectly. She describes what it feels like, how worthless she feels, and why she wants to die. This book is not pretty, trust me, from vomit to suicide it has everything. But it is an important book nevertheless. It obviouly has a deep meaning. It will show you things you ignored, it will transform you.
I don’t know what else to say. In many ways, it is a gloomy book. It’s definitely not something you will read in one sitting. You will need breaks, you will need time to think, to check how you fill. But trust me, when you finally put it down, when it’s over, you will not regret it. This book is worth reading, but read it with caution, read it little by little.
The Bell Jar has also been categorized as a feminist novel, and indeed, it shows the road of a woman who doesn’t need a man. She is independant, even if her issues also make her vulnerable. And obviously, this is something new in the 60s. She is different. And I love how strong she is.
If you’re looking for a classic, if you are curious about mental illnesses, if you’re looking for feminist books. And if you love Sylvia Plath, obviously.
This review was really hard to write, and I don’t even feel like it’s a proper review, but I wanted to talk about this book, and how big an impact it had on me. I hope it helped see a bit what it was about if you haven’t read it, and if you had, I’d love to discuss it in the comments!