118 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The original and best on depression?
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...
Published on 23 Jan 2004 by Ms. S. J. Smith
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite poetry!!!
If Plath had never written such stunning poems and, if her tragic life was not so well documented, then this book would be a great achievement. As it is the book comes across as a watered-down version of her acutely disturbing poems. Read it, but read the 'Ariel' anthology first!!
Published on 30 Nov 1999
Most Helpful First | Newest First
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Crafted,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Bell Jar (FF Classics) (Kindle Edition)This is a sumptuous, indulgent and occasionally painful read - and I loved it. With so many reviews I won't describe what its all about, I can tell you how it made me feel. It was eerily familiar, but I loved Esther and her attitudes to the world around her, I even felt envious of her one time friend Buddy. I think this is a beautiful book, filled with hopes and fears - though I know Sylvia's back story. This is a work of art, adorable and reassuring. I felt enlivened by this read - and I'm so glad a friend made recommendation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Plath's Inferno,
Esther is a young Bostonian who interns for a magazine in New York City, but is left nonplussed and scared by the adventure. Here she is in the big city with other girls her age all embarking on a summer of freebies and glamour and yet she feels depressed. As time marches on the pain steadily balloons until it thwarts her ambitions and she starts sinking.
What still surprises me about the novel is how hopeful it is. Esther's psychic torment is brutally exposed, as though we were peeking beneath a sodden bandage, but she always emerges from the darkness. She hits rock bottom but eventually picks herself up again. This is at odds with the tone of Sylvia Plath's famous last poems, which promise the bitter end (a promise which the author kept). Deservedly or not those poems and Plath's suicide make The Bell Jar's ending poignant. I almost think of this novel as Plath, to quote Dylan Thomas, raging against the dying of the light.
To dismiss The Bell Jar as morbid and hysterical, which some people do, is I think to misunderstand it. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest it's often harrowing, but remember that Esther isn't destroyed by her misadventures.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Profound,
Some more negative reviews of this book have stated that this book is 'slow' or 'dull' and I just can't see either of those things as being negative in the case of this particular artistic work... Depression makes the world slow right down, and it is very much reflected in her book. Her descriptions of things make it all so colourful and vivid in my head, but it may have been so dull and grey to her at the time. The book is a true insight into Plath's mind, and is very well written.
Plath is in no way self-indulgent in her writing (unlike Wurtzel's Prozac Nation which is ABYSMAL), or at the time of events - she continued to try and live and be happy with people despite the black cloud gradually encapsulating her mind. Throughout the whole book, and probably in real life, she is desperately seeking to live her life, and not to die.. but in the end, and not long after this book was published, she ultimately, and very sadly, failed.
'I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.'
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, classic piece of literature,
Sylvia Plath was utterly depressed when she wrote this, and it shows - it's dark and it's real, but I think it makes the book all the more interesting. Often the tortured minds are the most compelling and creative, and this shines through in this novel. I am often drawn to books about mental health, but none ever match, or even come close to this wonderful, classic piece of literature.
5.0 out of 5 stars Review,
5.0 out of 5 stars The self/reflexive nature of depression,
The book makes you see how easy and how gradually one can slip from moments of intense self-reflexiveness and feeling disconnected from the world to a state of depression, while also documenting the thoughts and states of the depressed young woman without censoring the bleakness of the experience.
Aside from its poetic beauty, Sylvia Plath's book has a healing value for all those who have too often looked within themselves and have been disillusioned, because it shows them that even the most beautiful beings and the most complex souls *and often especially these rich individuals* can feel depressed. After having myself been through a milder period of depression, I really connected with the character and it helped me feel less alone in my past experience.
The book is also a good mirror of a very competitive society and the trials of the creative mind in such an environment.
Having said this...I must go and re-read it!
4.0 out of 5 stars a personal and poetic treatise on suffering,
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading.,
This review is from: The Bell Jar (FF Classics) (Kindle Edition)First, I'm not a literary expert so this is quite a basic 'as I found it' review. This is the first book I bought on the Kindle, having had it in the back of my head for a couple of years. I hadn't read in a long time and this really gripped me. Even though it's from years back, it's still very accessible and stays focussed all the way through. The whole thing is really well written, but occasionally I would come across a 'gem' of a line, that just stopped me reading and really knocked me back for a minute, hauntingly beautiful short descriptions of introspection. It's quite a dark book, but I wouldn't say intensely dark, especially in this day and age where we've really set the standard for twisted. The observations she makes, I found to be brutally honest and I was often struck at how, really, little has changed in respects to attitudes, or a majority ignorance in the population as a whole.
Plath has a beautiful way of putting a twist on what she writes, where otherwise it might seem like a million-times-read cliché, I mean all the things about describing how cold and dark it is on a bad day, for example. She finds a way to make it her own personal description, her own unique observations, her twist on it, as her character perceives it, and this went a long way to keeping me interested.
A lot more seems to be being said in each chapter, in each event, than what you initially realise. It's very rare that I know I'll read a book twice, but this is one of those which I know I will. I've always been a huge fan of Plath's poetry, and know a lot about her life, so perhaps I've been influenced by this, but I can genuinely say that at least the more poetic type of reader should get a lot out of this. Also, if you're someone who has or does struggle with depression or distorted thoughts, you may find instances to identify with; I certainly did, and it was a positive experience.
One of the biggest criticisms of Plaths work (that I'm aware of), is, when over simplified somewhat, she was too self-obsessed. I agree there are elements of that here. However, read the book and it should become clear why this was the case; it's not uncommon to be a little preoccupied with your own pain when you're seriously depressed, and I don't think this detracts from her work. If anything I think she managed to write very well for the positive side, as it were.
I respect everyone has their own take, which is great. But as a reviewer here, I personally believe she was a deeply talented writer, and this has only been further affirmed by reading The Bell Jar.
5.0 out of 5 stars A true account on mental illness,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I really enjoyed the book though enjoy probably isn't the correct word to use here.
You learn about 'treatment methods' used for mental illness during the 60's and about mental health hospitals. It's horrific and you find yourself just reading in disbelief. We learn about the struggles of Sylvia and her fellow patients and nurses, her love affairs and her family life. I ended up identifying with some parts of her life so I was really engrossed in it that I read it poolside on holiday. It's not really a beach book but I just couldn't put it down.
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern classic,
Most Helpful First | Newest First
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Library Binding - 18 April 2008)
Used & New from: £10.00