Book Review: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Number of Pages: 288
My Rating: 2
Summary from GoodReads.com:
Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
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.
I recognize Sylvia Plath was an excellent writer and the book itself was written well. However, my review is solely based upon how much I enjoyed reading the book… and I didn’t enjoy reading it at all.
While this book was definitely not uplifting and the story didn’t necessarily make me stay glued to it, it was a book I felt obligated to read as I’ve heard about it every year since I can remember. It is considered one of Sylvia Plath’s classic works and coincidentally it was her last before her own suicide. I have read some of Plath’s other writings and appreciated them, so I figured I finally needed to give her novel a try and stop feeling left out of something wonderful.
Let me throw this out there, I have never shied away from a depressing book. I thoroughly enjoyed The Lovely Bonesand I’ve read The Virgin Suicidesmore times than I can count. But this one takes the cake. The main character of the book, Esther Greenwood, had no real hope for herself and due to Plath’s writing style (and paralleled own mental deterioration) gave you no hope for her either. After reading the book for a while I started to feel apathetic towards the character and didn’t think anything was going to get better for her. It was also hard to like her in general as she seemed very cynical, self-obsessed, and manipulative.
The rest of the characters in the book didn’t help out the plot along much, either. They were either very flat and boring or stereotypical and seemed like they were trying to fit into a certain mold, not exactly people that you wanted to make a connection with or like. After feeling like this for a lot of the beginning, I started to understand why Esther was so depressed all of the time!
While a big chunk of the book was about Esther’s day-to-day life in NYC, I felt like a very small portion was about her actual nervous breakdown and the diagnosis’s and treatments she received. And the biggest question I had while reading was- can you be carefree and doing well and all of sudden one day wake up and nosedive into insanity like that?! For my sake, and the sake of all of other twenty-something girls out there, I truly hope not.
Maybe I am accustomed to more interesting, super depressing stories, but overall, this book was just not for me. Glad I finally checked it out, but definitely won’t be reading it again.