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The Bell Jar [Paperback]

Sylvia Plath
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

2 Jun 2005
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. Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath's only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; New Ed edition (2 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571226167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571226160
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly- written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

"'In looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness [this book] forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: what is reality and how can it be confronted?' New York Times Book Review"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original and best on depression? 23 Jan 2004
By sjs101 VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Sylvia Plath is probably one of the most recognisable female authors and poets of modern times, she will be largely remembered for her haunting poetry of depression and mostly autobiographical novel (the first and last) the Bell Jar in which her real life persona is replaced by Esther Greenwood, a young woman who is on the verge of breaking into the writing world. In the first section of the book Esther is an intern in New York working for a prestigious fashion magazine. It is clear from the outset that she has worries as she cannot find any immediate beauty in the cosmopolitan world of NY, she merely carries on day to day but it is clear the enjoyment and excitement is gone.
As the book progresses we see her return home where she essentially suffers a nervous breakdown in which she is unable to move from her room and concludes that the everyday tasks of life are too unbearable. She then goes on the journey into a deep depression in which she clearly considers the best method for suicide, has regular visits to a psychiatrist and spends time in a mental rehabilitation unit. The one thing that this book highlights is the terrible way in which mentally ill people were treated in the 50’s and early 60’s, the method of electric shock therapy to eradicate her depressed feelings leaves her scared of any other ‘help’ she may receive, and we see how petrified she becomes when next given this ‘treatment’ albeit once more under more friendlier circumstances.
The story is a powerful evocation of Plaths own mental health issues and by writing this book she successfully suggested to a quietened nation of other mental health sufferers that it was ‘ok’ to feel this way and that it happened to the best and most promising bright young things.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Excellent 5 Sep 2006
Format:Paperback
As a real book worm, I knew that this book was semi-autobiographical before I read it, and I had thought that Plath would struggle to remove herself enough from her situation in order to be able to write about it in a subjective way. I am pleased to say however, that I was mistaken! Plath describes excellently the plunging depths of depressive illness, even conveying to me - someone who has never suffered from depression - the true despair and suffocation that can be experienced.

The bell-jar itself is a description of how it feels to fall into a period of depression- entering into a suffocating, surreal and distorted world where only you live- unable to communicate with anybody.

One piece of symbolism I really enjoyed in the book was the notion of the fig tree, and how your life can be represented by a fig tree...so many branches representing the many paths you could take in life. The choice of; which branch will lead you to a delicious fig?...but the ever conscious notion that if you take too long to decide your path, the figs will all be rotten by the time you pick one.

I really enjoyed this book. Excellent read.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic, haunting insight 3 July 2007
By Me123
Format:Paperback
Sylvia Plath's semi-autobiographical novel is a harrowing, thought provoking insight into the mind of a woman who is almost synonymous with mental illness.

Indeed, the mental health issue runs through the novel and the main character, who is based on Plath in a number of ways, spends a significant amount of time in a mental institution, dealing with the effects this has on her and her condition. The work provides a haunting insight to the reality of a mental illness, and how this affects the sufferer and their immediate family and friends.

From studying Plath's poetry, it can be clearly seen that the central character is based on the author. The most obvious representation comes from their conditions in the novel (bi-polar disorder, abandonment issues, a hint of an Electra Complez) and if you know anything about Plath, many short quotations in the novel take on a much more significant meaning than they would on their own. In fact, it is probably best to understand the writer's basic background before approaching the novel.

So far, I've painted a picture of a heavy, depressing read. Whilst I cannot deny that it is a heavy book dealing with a massive subject, I did not find it depressing in any way, but rather fascinating.

"The Bell Jar" is a crucial work of American literature, and is an essential purchase for any fan of Plath's work, or any fan of literature in general. Be warned, however, that it is a heavy book, particularly if you do not understand the background.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gem of a book 6 Feb 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a portrayal of a 'descent into insanity' but not in the dramatic way one might assume. What is most striking about this book is the calm, rational, measured tone used throughout. It is almost as if Plath is convincing the reader that these thoughts and sentiments are perfectly normal. The articulate prose does not seem to be the product of a garbled mind. The underlying humour of the narrative also seems to undercut the theme of depression. However, depression permeates the text as it permeates the character's life. There is lethargy, indifference, a failure to see the point of life. Yet all of this is presented in almost a casual manner - not to make light of the subject, but rather to effectively convey how for the depressive, such notions are part of everyday life. In this way, Plath manages to portray a difficult and heavy subject in a manner which any reader can understand.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The things I desire most will be the end of me
I think this may of ment more to me if I was a female. Was ok but I wouldn't rush to read it again
Published 18 days ago by calum wallace
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
I read this in one go. definitely recommend as an insight into depression and its terrifying grip. very engaging throughout
Published 18 days ago by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable, if you're into this sort of thing
I read this as part of a book club, and I must say it was very readable and never boring. However, I found it difficult to empathise with the narrator. Read more
Published 19 days ago by ibn Aiyub
3.0 out of 5 stars Depressing
Not a feel good book but then it deals with a difficult and sad subject. Well written and well worth reading.
Published 20 days ago by paulette
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bell Jar is one of those books you can't wait to get back to, but...
I enjoyed The Bell Jar. This book gives an insight into depression which is something that can exist within any one. Read more
Published 20 days ago by laurao
3.0 out of 5 stars Good service, bad book
This book starts off boring, then gets interesting for like two minutes and then back to boring, I would not recommend.
Published 23 days ago by Ameena
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This is a slightly difficult book to rate. The first half of it is excellent. It is poetic and full of beautiful characterisation and build-up. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Dan Crawford
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to read
I have to say that when I eventually made myself settle to read this, I found it quite hard going. However, I am so glad that I persevered. Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. Collins
3.0 out of 5 stars not the classic it's made out to be
but a work by a very young writer who would possibly have matured into greatness. And an interesting glimpse into the period she writes about.
Published 1 month ago by DT
1.0 out of 5 stars The Bell Jar
I found it boring. The central protagonist was not likeable and I felt Plath's own life had sold the book.I was not interested in a character vomiting when drunk. Hopelessly dated.
Published 1 month ago by Jean
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