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The Bell Jar [Paperback]

Sylvia Plath
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (271 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 (271 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 338 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
126 of 132 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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29 of 30 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Genius!! 10 Dec 2000
Format:Paperback
I don't recall ever being so moved by a book as I felt when I read The Bell Jar. The way in which Plath likens the feelings of detatchment and solitude felt by sufferers of depression to a belljar is pure genius. This book is not only thought provoking, it also provides an invaluable insight into the unknown territory of insanity. This book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in mental health and also anyone who has ever experienced depressive illness. I highly recommend it.
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34 of 36 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
5.0 out of 5 stars classic
My favourite novel this book arrived very quickly in good condition and the writing is not too small or large for people like who have eye sight problems. Read more
Published 2 hours ago by Sputnik
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, intensely sad and beautifully written
'The Bell Jar' is a timeless classic which offers a poignant exploration of depression and mental illness, in prose which is always elegantly straightforward and frank, rather than... Read more
Published 6 days ago by LilacLemon
5.0 out of 5 stars A startling insight into attitudes towards depression
Esther Greenwood heads to NYC for a summer internship at a magazine. She finds that she is not excited by the city but rather finds herself increasingly unable to identify with the... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Hannah Lewis
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
this book is a must read I and my two daughters have all read it twice, written with humour and gives insight into mental breakdowns, author is a genius
Published 24 days ago by jaa
3.0 out of 5 stars Be careful
This story does affect you psychologically, so be wary if you start all of sudden taking very hot baths...
Published 24 days ago by sarahmulk
4.0 out of 5 stars Different but good
I really did enjoy this book as it gave a completely different perspective on life...a tough read considering that the book is partially based on her life but it is interesting to... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Emma Coates
2.0 out of 5 stars The Bell Jar
This book is a slow meander along the life of someone caught in a mental illness. A neurotic. It doesn't move with any particularly pace. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Corinne
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bell Jar
I would highly recommend this book. My friends and I have all enjoyed this work by Sylvia Plath. Go buy :p
Published 1 month ago by Rosalyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Very happy with the product. Got it in the right time as described. No issues and no problems. Thank you
Published 1 month ago by juliana
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, but disturbing read
As someone who has never been clinically depressed, the first-person narrative sucked me into the numbness of the protagonist's despair so thoroughly that there can be no doubt... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lucien Romano
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