Hello book lovers! Today’s review is for the first classic that I have read this year and boy did I love it. I needed to read a book for my creative writing course that discussed depression in a way that current books don’t so I took a leap by selecting The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I have been wanting to read this book for a while and went into it barely knowing anything about the plot. It did turn my stomach at times but I fell right into it and couldn’t stop reading it whenever I had the time to. I could have easily flown through it in a matter of days but darn university for making it take eleven days – which isn’t TOO bad… right?
Book Blurb: “Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.
Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.” Goodreads
I decided to review this book for you guys because not only do I think that it needs more love but I also have to include it in my reading log for my story that I am writing. Killing two birds with one stone, Athena? Yeah, basically. So let’s begin!
1. The characters. The characters introduced during this story in each of the time periods and locations added so much to the story. It is not often that “side characters” shine brighter than the main characters for whole chapters but this book shows that it is possible. Each one added so much depth, drama, emotion, tragedy, frustration, happiness, laughs, and oh just so many things that make a book good. One of the reasons that I loved this book so much was because I became really attached to some of the characters so when things happened to them, my reactions were always raw and full emotion, as if I knew them in real life.
2. The age of the main character. This book really hit home for me with the main character being within my age range. She was struggling with working out her dreams and aspirations, the right thing to do at the right time, and her mental health during all of it. Although I can promise that I am doing far better than she was, it was nice to read such an honest and raw character going through things that I have faced or will soon face in a realistic way. Like no offense John Green, I truly do love your work, but it’s not always the greatest when looking at reality.
3. The locations. The imagery and overall events shown in this book during the different points of the main character’s life always shined. There wasn’t one single scene where I couldn’t draw it all out in my head. Every location came to life in my head, blending with the loved characters in such a natural and beautiful way.
1. The main character. Oh Esther, how I loved you so. Her journey in this book is one full of so much self-discovery and heartbreak. The way in which she deals with things and all of the mental issues that she faces are so realistic. I would be shocked if one were to ever read this book and not connect to the things that she goes through, whether that be in a personal way or from other people. In terms of “classics” that I have read, Esther is one of my favourite characters ever and yes that is up with Jay Gatsby (I love him. Don’t judge me.). I just kept wanting to hug her or take her out for tea and be her therapist (basically).
2. The descriptions. Every single life changing event, emotion, change of location, and character was described so beautifully and naturally that I was never asking for more. I was able to see each thing in my mind while still being able to add my own twists to make my reading experience that more special. I read this book with the hopes of learning a stronger way of writing about such touchy topics and Sylvia Plath certainly helped. Part of me wishes that I had read this book earlier so that I could have already analysed her writing style but it certainly worked out to be fitting with what point I am at in my life (and the piece that I am writing myself for creative writing).
3. The combination of language and visuals. Sylvia Plath somehow worked out the perfect balance of showing and telling. During my entire university experience, I have always been told “show, don’t tell” but Plath stomped that right into the ground. She wrote things as the character would think them, while also illustrating the world in a way with language and visuals that you don’t even realise until you put the book down for that reading period. I can honestly say that this book deserves more love, respect, and hype than it seems to have (at least from what I have come across).
4. The use of the realistic stages. With this book focusing on the progression of depression and the different stages of help (especially in this time period), I found it to be quite realistic. It addressed the really bad days, the good ones, and the confusing ones. You can tell that Sylvia Plath was going through a lot of it herself at the time of writing this book as it comes across in such a personal way. You could look at it like being a fictional diary (to a degree… if that makes any sense) which I found to be so refreshing. Books about depression have become too common nowadays, in my opinion, and it really comes across when the quality is not great or not unique.
1. The reality of that time period. Almost half of this book made my stomach turn the entire time. With Esther having depression and needing help, it ends up leading to multiple periods of being in mental health wards and even electric shock treatment. I did not expect it to go that far when going into this book so to say that I was shocked and upset would be an understatement (not at Sylvia Plath but the realistic “treatment” at that time period). It was shocking and hard to read but just made it that much more powerful so I ended the book thinking “Wow, I have honestly never read something like that.” Which is such a cool and rare thing as I have become more and more of a reader in these past few years.
Overall, I truly did enjoy this book and can’t recommend it enough for anyone who “enjoys” reading books about such touchy topics. If you enjoy John Green or those similar in the young adult genre, please do yourself a favor and get this classic into your life.
Would I suggest this book to a friend?: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Does it pain me that this was her only book?: A million times yes.