I’m a little late but I decided to finally read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This book was Plaths’ only novel and was published for the first time under the pseudonym, Victoria Lucas, in 1963. It was published under Plath’s own name in 1967 and then in the United States in 1971. So like I said I’m a little late. I’m going to give my thoughts on the book but I enjoy talking about the author as well when I do a review, especially someone as troubled as Sylvia Plath.
The novel revolves around Esther Greenwood. Esther is a middle class, studious, intelligent and pretty young woman. It’s apparent from the beginning that she’s also very anxious and is worried about her future. She’s indecisive (same) and can’t make up her mind what she wants to do with her life. The whole story is about her deepening depression and eventual mental break. I won’t give any more details so as to avoid spoilers.
I loved this book. You really feel for Esther. It’s also incredibly relatable if you’ve ever suffered with anxiety, depression or just the stresses of college and life. This book captures that fear of adulthood when you suddenly have to decide who you’re going to be and what you want out of life. I think it handles the topic of mental illness and suicide gracefully. It makes you realize that mental illness doesn’t have a specific “look”. You can be young or old, smart or ignorant, wealthy or poor, it truly doesn’t matter.
What really adds depth to this book, at least to me, is the fact that Sylvia Plath was clinically depressed. Plath committed suicide in 1963, just one month after this novel released in the UK. She had two small children and from all accounts everything was going good in her life. She just couldn’t silence the demons in her own head.
This novel is not a cheerful and happy one. If you’re sensitive to the topic of suicide and mental illness this probably wouldn’t be the book for you. However, if you are looking for a good read that will make you think then please give this a try. Thank you for reading and have a Merry Christmas!