Book #39

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, boyfriend, looks, career - and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality.

I have to say I was reluctant to read any Plath at all to begin with. I had never experienced any of her work - whether poems or prose - and I was dragging my heels mainly because of the manner in which she had died. I thought this novel would be incredibly dark and depressing, but I was really surprised. I have nothing but praise for this book; I enjoyed every single word of it.

The timeline of the novel bothered me slightly to begin with. Scenes were flitting to and fro, and I found it confusing at times to work out where I was. I soon realised, however, that this was Esther's descent into madness, and everything began to fall into place.

It is interesting to see Esther's decline, actually. At the beginning of the novel, she comes across as a sort of plain, naïve, young woman, who is coming of age. We follow her exploits, some which are hilarious, until a certain point comes where she leaves New York and enters into her depressed state. She becomes a completely different person, and it's like a change from black to white.

Esther's decline is worrying for these reasons, but I was also shocked at how much I felt myself relating to her, and understanding entirely where she was coming from. At first, this made me think that I was also doomed to depression and madness, but on closer inspection, I believe that many women will be able to relate to Esther.

Plath's prose is so eloquent that I am tempted to read some of her poetry, even though I am not such a huge lover of poetry in general. The writing is truly incredible, and the image of the bell jar is one I will keep with me for a while. The idea is so clever, simple and true that it's one I can't possibly forget, and one which has given me endless love for this novel. I just wish I had been able to find out sooner how wonderful a writer she really was.

39 / 66 words. 59% done!