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The Bell Jar (Faber Paper Covered Editions) Paperback – 9 Apr 2001
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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.
"'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" --Reviews --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
The tale of Esther Greenwood is a sobering tale for the parents of daughters and indeed for us all, by virtue of the fact that Plath frighteningly depicts the very indistinct line between happiness and depression along which we all walk. The glass of the Bell Jar is very thin but enough to refract our view of the world.
Time and again the reader can relate to the superficially happy experiences of Esther but is nagged by a haunting sense of her emptiness and lack of purpose. The clues to the decline of her mental state are deftly developed by a writer all too familiar with the darkness of depression and anxiety.
This haunting novel leaves us questioning the value of the actions in our own lives but importantly offers hope reasserting the strength of the spark of life that burns within us all.
As Esther's time in New York is further explained, it is clear quite quickly that she doesn't feel at home there. Esther, used to being known for doing well in school and winning scholarships feels like an extremely small fish in a huge pond. Although the other characters are not described in too much detail, Esther makes it known that she doesn't feel anything like them and doesn't think that she has much in common with the other girls at all. The way that Esther's character is written would make me think that at the time the book was published, women everywhere would have been able to relate to her. She isn't the most confident of characters and is open about her fears and worries about the world and her future. This was something that I found really intriguing about Esther.
The Bell Jar is partly autobiographical of Sylvia Plath's life and deals with the topics of mental illness and suicide. These themes are strong throughout the whole book. When in New York, Esther knows she doesn't quite fit and this begins her slow descent into depression and an intense sadness. Even though Esther keeps her personality throughout the book, parts of her slowly get lost in the big world that she is experiencing. She is cold and calculating about some major issues like losing her virginity and her views about marriage are far from those of other women during that time.
Esther becomes mentally unstable following her return home from New York and this is where the novel mirrors parts of Plath's own life. I thought that this was going to be a really depressing book after knowing the subject matter but everything was so interesting instead. Watching Esther's mental health get worse and worse and seeing the different kinds of establishments that she was put in gave me more perspective on what Plath's own life would have been like. Due to Esther's condition and her life experiences, Plath made me like her but also feel empathy for her at the same time.
The Bell Jar is a wonderfully written novel full of poetic prose and crisp descriptions. While the novel tackles tough themes, especially for the time it was written, it is a compelling read and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Read it. It will make you laugh, cry and, maybe, help.
I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good and interesting book to read.