The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

395040Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Pages: 244
Year: 1963
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Time taken to read: 8 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsis: 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.

While reading The Bell Jar, I had the same thought I had while reading Girl, Interrupted, which is that someone must be stalking me and wrote a book about my life. Just cross out Esther Greenwood and write Kate Conroy in its place, and it’s a biography, except I haven’t actually had a cool publishing internship–only in my wildest dreams. I don’t know if it’s just because I relate to her so much, but I could really feel everything she felt as I was reading. Her pain was my pain, her confusion, my confusion, her crises mine as well. I actually had no idea going into this what it was about at all. (For someone with an English degree, I am painfully ignorant when it comes to the plots of classic novels. What happens in The Catcher in the RyeHamletThe Great Gatsby? I honestly have no clue.) In any case, I was very pleasantly surprised when all of a sudden it becomes clear that Esther is, like, so mentally unstable. But the best part is how calm her voice is, because, at least for me, that’s how it is. That’s how it’s always been. It’s waking up and thinking, “Hmm, yep, I’d really love to be dead right now.” And sure, sometimes it comes in typical outbursts of insanity, but mostly it’s calm, because these feelings are so constant, and it’s so exhausting to be breaking down 24/7, and after breaking down you sort of realize that that behavior didn’t change anything, you don’t feel any better, and now you’ve just embarrassed yourself and tired yourself out. You become like a boiling pot with a lid over it.

Well, now that this review has gotten so depressing, I’ll just say if it wasn’t clear that I think this is a phenomenal book that I will certainly read again. And now I shall be popping out to the library to pick up Girl, Interrupted because this put me in the mood for it.

  1. Thanks for reminding me about this one! I read it years ago and loved it, it resonates so much!

  2. This is a very moving review and I commend you for posting about such a personal subject. You might be interested in Faces in The Water by Janet Frame which deals with a similar subject.Bronte

    • Kate Conroy said:

      Thank you so much, and thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Pingback: Kate Likes Books

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