Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

6 out of 6 for the Classics Challenge
genre: adult fiction
rating: 4/5

Ester Greenwood has her life ahead of her. She is on an exclusive internship in New York City. She's making a name for herself in college, where she studies on scholarship. These things should be making Ester feel happy and yet...it's not that simple. From the very beginning, the sense you get from Ester's first person narrative is that Ester just doesn't process things the way most people would. It's fascinating, really, how expertly Sylvia Plath crafts her language to paint a portrait of a woman who is experiencing mental illness. Her "glass jar" is the distorted lens through which she views her life - both people and experiences. That glass jar stifles her until she ends up receiving medical treatments that were common in the 1950s - none of which were particularly pleasant and some were bordering on terrifying.

I was hesitant to start this novel because I thought it would depress me. I found, though, that rather than depress me, Ester intrigued me. Her self-absorption and idiosyncrasies were so crisp and real. I loved following her through a train of thought that took her to a destination so different from my own in a similar circumstances. The text itself is often incredibly poetic and descriptive, even when she's describing something disturbing. I liked this book so much that I became very interested in Sylvia Plath and her own experiences - which are, apparently, very similar to the sorts of things that happened to Ester Greenwood.

If you know someone who has ever suffered from depression, I think this book can really be a kind of window into that world world and show just how deceptive and debilitating those chemical imbalances can be - as well as how slow is the road to recovery. Hopefully, with the medical advances of our day, fewer and fewer people will have to suffer like Ester Greenwood or Sylvia Plath.

8 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I've heard of this book, but really didn't know anything about it. Thanks for the review.

Veens said...

I have had this book - and was thinking and thinking about it too~

Thanks for the review I know now!

Trish said...

For some reason I've always been a little intimidated by this book (I find myself saying that a lot!). I have it on the shelf, and thanks to your review I'll have to bump it up on the list--I'm glad you enjoyed it and that it wasn't too weighing down.

momster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Serena said...

this is a true classic and should be read by everyone...I loved this book.

TheBlackSheep said...

I keep hearing about this book, but am frightened of reading it because of it's perspective. Maybe I should give it a try though is the perspective is intriguing rather than just disturbing. Thanks for the review!

Laura said...

I've wanted to read this book for a long time. I thought it would be depressing as well, but I'm glad to hear you didn't think so!

Thoughts of Joy said...

I just reread your comment on my post about this book. You said that it was on your list to read for the Classic Challenge, so I thought I'd come by and see what you thought.

"I was hesitant to start this novel because I thought it would depress me. I found, though, that rather than depress me, Ester intrigued me." She intrigued me, as well.

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