Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Published: 1963
Source: Purchased
Genre: Classic Fiction
Buy: Amazon ~*~ Barnes & Noble
Add to your Goodreads shelf
Caution: May contain spoilers

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under--maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational--as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, "The Bell Jar" is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

~synopsis from Goodreads

My Thoughts:

I have been curious about Sylvia Plath for awhile. I’m a lover of poetry and knew that she wrote not only poems but also this book. It has been said that the book told a lot about her personally, including the struggles she went through dealing with depression. I knew this was the one I wanted to read and review for Banned Books Week this year.

In the beginning, I found it absorbing the way she would bring up these little tidbits from the past, things from her childhood. There was something from the present that triggered a memory and it was such a seemingly insignificant piece of information, but it made the book seem more realistic. Sometimes I didn’t know whether she was talking about the present or the past, but in either case, I was still intrigued enough by whatever story was being discussed that it didn’t matter.

As the story progressed, it became a little darker and more depressing. I found myself feeling sad and disheartened reading Esther’s inner dialogue. I know a little bit about depression and suicidal tendencies, but reading this made it all the more clear how deep-seated those emotions ran inside a person. You may think you can (as a person who isn’t clinically depressed but has had moments in life where depression has struck) understand, yet I never fully understood until now.

The Bell Jar is not a story for the weak to read. It can be upsetting to read about someone who is going through a severe mental illness. Sylvia Plath really put her everything into writing this novel. She doesn’t mince words and she expresses feelings in a way I’ve never seen. I did enjoy it for the most part, even though the atmosphere of the story brought me down.

My Rating:

Very Good: Stay up late


  1. I've always been curious about this book as well but I've never been game enough to try reading it. I don't think I have the steel for this one. I know someone who is going through depression atm so it might be too close to home.

    1. Yeah, it wasn't easy to read at certain points. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to read this one.

  2. I plan on reading this one someday but I know I'm going to have to be in the mood. Wouldn't want it depressing me even more that I already am. ;)

    1. Oh yes, you have to be in the right frame of mind. I'm surprised I managed to make it through.

  3. This book meant a lot to me as a teenager. I really related to some of Esther's insecurities and because I was a teen and sort of in love with the idea of dramatic tragedies, her descent into depression was fascinating. I have a feeling I'd see it differently as an adult - it might be a harder read now that I've had more experience knowing people with serious depression.

    1. I'm not sure how I would have handled this one as a teenager--it may have actually scared me with how graphic it is. I am glad I read it now, I think I was strong enough to handle the subject matter. Of course, that didn't make it too easy to read, just less scary.


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