Book #57

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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.

Esther’s decline into madness. An eloquent, simple, and painfully true account of a woman’s struggles with mental health, and the way it impacts her life. This is one of my favourites for its perfect depiction of slow decline, and its heartfelt quiet pleas for help.

Plath gives Esther to us initially as a young woman full of promise, slightly naïve, but progressing in her career and education, finding out the secrets of the world, and doing her best to thrive. Slowly, with flickering vignettes and jarring timelines, we see her change into a different person. Cautiously, without warning, depression seeps into her personality and prospects.

It’s so incredibly sad, but frighteningly relatable. The image of the bell jar is unforgettable; we’ve all been trapped in there at some point, and the stark possibility of finding ourselves in there again is one that looms dangerously.

This is a masterpiece of fiction, one which feels brutally raw given Plath’s own life and her tragic end. Esther is in me, and she will be in many of us, drowning yet resurfacing in a heartbreaking cycle.

“I was supposed to be having the time of my life.”