First impressions before reading the book:
I actually didn’t know anything about the plot of this book, I went into it completely blind. It’s been on my mental list of books to read for years, but for some reason or another I never picked it up. I think I thought that it might be a really depressing book, and it put me off a bit.
Without giving too much away, The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath. I actually didn’t know that much about her, as I’m not massively into poetry, and she wasn’t someone I studied in English, but I did know that she struggled with depression, and the tragic way in which she ended her life. However, The Bell Jar takes some inspiration from her life, and fictionalises some aspects of it. It follows main character Esther Greenwood, through her internship and college experience, illustrating her ‘demise into insanity’ although realistically, I would disagree with the term insanity being used in this context, she becomes clinically depressed, not insane. Esther is always self aware in the novel, and knows exactly what is going on around her, and in her own mind. The book also deals with Esther’s concerns about virginity and marriage, which I found interesting to read from a female perspective in a ‘classic’ novel, and highlights Esther’s acute opinions on the matter.
The Bell Jar mostly follows Esther, although there are a few recurring characters, both at the start and the end. Most frequently mentioned are Buddy Willard, Esther’s former boyfriend, who suffers from TB for a large part of the novel and Esther struggles to respect after finding out he isn’t a virgin. Other characters include Doreen, Esther’s friend whilst she is at her internship in New York at the start of the novel, and Joan, Esther’s friend from her hometown who she reconnects with in the asylum towards the end of the novel, having in common that she also dated Buddy. Her mother, and her doctors are also recurring characters, but do not play such a large part in the plot.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, definitely! I really enjoyed this, it’s a shame I waited so long to read it, but i’m so glad that I finally did! I would honestly consider this one of my favourite books i’ve ever read. It’s a much easier read than I anticipated, although the themes of the book are quite heavy going. Sometimes I’m a bit concerned to read really popular ‘classic’ books, because i’ve read a few in the past and hated them, but The Bell Jar definitely is worth reading.
And to end this review, I thought I would share my favourite quote from the novel;
“If Mrs Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat– on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok– I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
I’m still taking part in the 2016 Reading Challenge, you can find me over on Goodreads where I update what I’m reading as soon as I start or finish a new book! If there’s any books you think I would enjoy, please let me know!