Book Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I’ve wanted to read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath for so many years now. Ever since I studied Plath’s poetry in Advanced Higher English when I was 17 this book has been on my list. I just never got around to it… I think anyone who reads can relate to the feeling of having a pile of books you want to read getting bigger and bigger before you’ve actually managed to read them all.

Anyway, because I’m on summer break from university at the moment I’ve had the opportunity to read books of my own choice for a change. I’ve been reading other people’s blog posts about The Bell Jar and because of some changes I’ve gone/am going through in my own life at the moment I thought now would just be the perfect time to read it.

I won’t lie, I wasn’t initially grabbed by it. It took my a good 70 or so pages before I was truly invested in Esther Greenwood and the story, but when I think about it that goes for most books with me.

One thing I decided almost immediately was that I wasn’t a fan of the character Doreen, she seemed self absorbed, vain and obnoxious and, honestly, whenever her character was involved in the story it irritated me.

The first half of the book was, I suppose, establishing the situation Esther was in and the stage in her life she was at. For reasons that obviously become apparent she seems completely dissatisfied with her life and her relationships. As a reader I found this slightly uncomfortable to read (not in a bad way, it’s good when books evoke a reaction from their readers!) because I have this uncontrollable need to make sure people are having a good time and when I read about Esther being at parties or with friends and clearly having an absolutely shit time I just wanted to pass the girl a drink, put her favourite song on and get her to have a boogie… well, try.

One of my FAVOURITE things about The Bell Jar was Plath’s writing style. Her poetry is, perhaps, what she’s most famous for (unfortunately, other than her infamous personal struggles) and I was curious to see how she dealt with writing in such a different format. To my surprise her style of writing was incredible readable and easy to understand, but you could still tell that it was the same woman who’d written such brilliant poetry who was writing. The descriptions were amazing, at points I just had to pause and think “wow that was so well written”. She conveyed Esther’s experiences perfectly and this extended later into the novel when things became a lot darker.

When “the bell jar descended” upon Esther and her mental health really took a turn for the worse, that’s when I really became fully engaged in the book. Suddenly, we weren’t in this glamorous world of journalism and high society, we were in a mental ward with Esther enduring badly conducted electrotherapy. The visceral descriptions of this treatment were difficult to read but, to me, incredibly interesting as were the parts of the novel that took place inside different hospitals. I really think anybody who’s suffered from mental health problems, particularly depression, would find this an interesting read.

The ending of the story is bitter sweet. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers for those who haven’t read the book, but one of the reasons it’s so famous is because of Plath’s death just one month after it’s publication. So, naturally, this is a very dark read, but one that I think is worthwhile to anybody interested in literature and/or learning about mental health.

Until next time,

J x

this road is red alison irvine review

Books about Glasgow: Past and Present

The title of this post is probably a slight misrepresentation of what I’m going to talk about today. I’ve recently read 2 different, unrelated books about/set in Glasgow. One was written in 1992, Poor Things by Alasdair Gray (Click here!), and one in 2011, This Road is Red by Alison Irvine (Click here!). So when I say “past and present” I really mean “not really written that far apart in the grand scheme of things” but let’s just brush over that.

Poor Things – Alasdair Gray

poor things alasdair gray review

I recently read Poor Things for one of my English courses and then wrote on it in my exam (let’s not ponder that too much). Despite it having been published in 1992 the bulk of the book is set around the late 19th – early 20th century. It is the memoirs of Archibald McCandless and his experience with an old friend and his wife Bella Baxter. Without spoiling too much he describes how his friend and physician (Godwin, cleverly named I imagine) found a pregnant woman after a suicide attempt and salvaged her body and the brain of the fetus and created, essentially, a new human being from the two. Archibald then met and fell in love with this woman, Bella, despite her having the mind of a child. After McCandless finishes telling his story and we find, has died, Bella is left with the manuscript and adds her version of events on to the end.

The book won both the Whitbread Novel Award and the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1992 and has been acclaimed for its intertextuality (frequently compared to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and full of Gothicism). Personally, I found it an engaging read and whether you’re from Glasgow or not I would recommend it. If you are from Glasgow though, you’ll recognise many of the landmarks referenced throughout the book, such as Park Circus and Charing Cross.

This Road is Red – Alison Irvine

this road is red alison irvine review

This book, in my mind, is decidedly more modern than Poor Things. It is set from the 1960’s to the late 2000’s, the majority of the lifespan of Glasgow’s Red Road flats. The flats garnered a lot of attention over the years, being the highest residential blocks in Europe when they went up and becoming an infamous slum in their later years. It’s no surprise that now, after they’ve been demolished, they remain culturally and historically significant.

I enjoyed this book so much. It contains so many different, interwoven, stories (almost in the style of Love Actually). Each of the stories is full, well rounded and interesting which makes each chapter of the book refreshing and exciting to read. Again I’d recommend this book wherever you are from. Simply as a work of fiction I rate it quite highly, but knowing that it is grounded in reality makes it all the more captivating. The book was also shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year award at the Saltire Society Awards in 2011.

I hope you enjoyed this little book post 🙂 if you’ve read either of these books or have any other suggestions please comment below!

Until next time,

J x

The Ultimate Vacation Book Tag

I was recently tagged by thatwildsoul to do the Ultimate Vacation Book Tag (also the original creator of the tag is so go have a look at both of their blogs! It’s taken me a few days to get around to it as… well… excuses aside (I’ve just been sleeping a lot much to all of your surprise I’m sure) here you have it!


*Answer the questions below
*Tag 5 friends
*Link back to (the creator of the tag) in your post


It’s the dead of winter and you are escaping to a tropical location. Hours in the sun with a book are on your “to-do” list. What book do you bring with you?

I’m not entirely sure how well all of my answers will relate to holidaying because I usually just pick up any old book I’ve been wanting to read. With that being said if I were going away somewhere exotic over the Christmas period I think I’d want to completely disconnect from the drizzly weather and absolute madness of the UK at Christmas time. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is set in Nigeria (very far from the UK) and is a super interesting and educational read. I read this book for one of my university courses and it was one of my absolute favourites to write about. It provides a unique, new perspective on the white colonisation of Africa (probably because it’s not written by a white person). I think Things Fall Apart is one of those books that everyone should read at some point in their life, and what better time than when you’re away in the sunshine and have the time to give it your full attention!

things fall apart chinua achebe

You see the first signs of spring and your heart beats faster with the thought of warmer days. You are escaping for a nice cruise to herald in the warm weather. What book do you bring to accompany you on the decks of the ship?

This one way easy for me to choose. When I think of springtime reading I think of lighthearted, fun, easy readers. The pinnacle of which being Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding! I’m sure absolutely everyone knows the basic premise of the Bridget Jones books. They’re essentially a modern day, hilarious retelling of Pride and Prejudice (hence Mr Darcy). As a fan of the original by Jane Austen and also being a citizen of the modern world there is absolutely nothing for me to not love about Bridget Jones! If you love a bit of light reading and are looking for a good laugh, get on Bridget Jones’s Diaries right now!

Bridget Jones's Diary Helen Fielding

Summer has arrived! You spend your weekends camping in the mountains. Fresh air, trees, animals, and campfires keep you company on your outing. What book do you bring to read next to the sound of the flowing creek?

For me, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is quite a fitting book for this type of situation. Spending a lot of time out in the wilderness, and especially camping, I’d imagine reading Frankenstein might even give me the creeps at times! I love Gothic novels and this is one of my favourites. As a large portion of this book is set in Switzerland and with frequent descriptions of landscapes and scenery I think this would be a great read when spending time outdoors in the summer weather.

Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Fall is approaching. Nothing makes your happier than crunchy leaves turning red and orange and purple. You bring a book to the local park to read on a bench under the whispering trees. What book do you read?

I absolutely love the autumn. It’s probably the most beautiful season to me but also has a slightly melancholic air which I love. It’s a welcome break from the bright, persistent high energy of summer for me. That’s why I’ve chosen quite a serious book for this answer. My pick is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. As with the majority of Plath’s work The Bell Jar chronicles Plath’s struggle with depression through the character of Esther Greenwood. I personally think it’s more fitting for a crisp autumn evening than bright summers day and, as a modern classic, it’s a definite must read for me (and anyone studying literature I would imagine).

The Bell Jar Sylvia Plath

Christmas is in the air. Lights, and carolers, and shopping. You want to curl up next to the fireplace with a good book that reminds you of comfort. What do you curl up with?

From my experience I’ve found books that revolve around Christmas generally quite disappointing. So for this question I’d prefer to pick up a book that just happens to be set at Christmas time but the plot isn’t preoccupied with it. I think I’d probably pick Carol (The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith. I read it about a year ago now and was recommending it to anyone who’d listen so now it’s your turn! It’s really a great book, as I’ve come to expect from Patricia Highsmith. It begins with Therese Belivet working a pretty tiresome job in a toy shop over the Christmas period. One day she ends up striking up conversation with a particular customer (I wonder if you can guess her name) and the rest is history!

Carol Patricia Highsmith The Price of Salt

Winter lasts sooooo long.You need something to remind you that the sun will come out again. What book to you read to take you away on the vacation you wish you were going on?

Yes, winter does last WAY too long. When I think of the vacation I wish I was going on one book immediately springs to mind. On the Road by Jack Kerouac. In On the Road, Sal (the narrator) documents his hedonistic travels around the states with his impulsive (bit of a loose cannon) friend Dean Moriarty. As somebody who really wants to visit many of the different states in the USA this book was a very interesting read. Not to mention the interesting historical significance of the book as one of the most recognisable pieces of literature from the Beat Generation.

Jack Kerouac On The Road

I hope you enjoyed reading my picks! Now it’s time to tag a few people to do this tag if they’d like to:


Until next time,

J x



Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one of my favourite books for many many reasons. I read it about 3 years ago when I was in my last year of secondary school. I read it along with The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and wrote my “dissertation” (technically what it was called but it was only about 4,000 words long) on them.

Some books stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page and, for me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was one of those books. It was the first book I ever cried my eyes out at (despite everyone calling me heartless for not crying at Rue’s death in The Hunger Games).

Charlie is an introverted adolescent boy just starting high school in America. Throughout the book, which is written in epistolary (letter) form from Charlie’s perspective, we slowly start to understand the somewhat unusual way Charlie sees the world. He is incredibly passive and, in many situations, goes completely unnoticed by other characters, simply witnessing other people’s lives and never really living his own. Patrick, one of the other main characters, remarks on this at a party and says:

“He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.”

This is, of course, where the book gets it’s name. After befriending Patrick and Sam Charlie begins to grow in confidence and his letters become more positive. The book explores many topics such as abuse, sexuality, mental illness and the role of authority in young people’s lives.

Ultimately the exploration of all of these themes boils down to one overarching message, which Chbosky puts very succinctly:

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

This line struck me because, at least in my opinion, it is largely true. I know so many people who have allowed themselves to be treated badly due to low self esteem. When Charlie reiterates his teacher’s poignant words to Sam there is a kind of quiet clarity. The entire purpose of the novel becomes apparent and all of the different character’s stories are put into perspective.

Chbosky’s writing is simple, easy to understand and almost child like at points. His art, however, lies in his subtlety and his ability to write an enamouring, emotionally driven novel.

The Perks of being a wallflower book review

I can’t write a review on the book without mentioning the movie. The script was written and directed by Chbosky, which means it remains very true to the book. The film is incredibly nostalgic, as is the book, referencing old TV shows, songs and films throughout. It is, of course, set in the 90’s so the fashion is always eye catching (if at some points questionable). The sets are colourful and traditionally American which, even if you’re not from America, adds a sense of familiarity.

Emma Watson - The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Lastly, the casting of the film could not have been better. You may not know this yet but Emma Watson may be my favourite human on earth, so as soon as I found out she was going to be in the film I was SOLD. Logan Lerman played Charlie with the nuance and emotional complexity that was necessary for the role and I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Ezra Miller, who played Patrick, has been known for his impressive performances in other films like “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and he proved his diversity as an actor in this film, portraying sweet-natured yet exuberant Patrick perfectly.

Well I think that’s just about all I have to say for now (other than if you haven’t read this book GO READ IT NOW). I hope you enjoyed this and thank you for reading. Comment below if you also love this book or want to suggest any other books I might like 🙂

Until next time,

J x

Childhood Reading Tag

Hello! I was stood in the kitchen the other day waiting for my pasta to boil, scrolling through my reader on WordPress and I was seeing so many cool, interesting posts people had written about books they’ve read or are reading. It got me thinking about everything I’ve read over the years and I thought of an idea for a tag! I’m not under any illusions that this is going to become a thing. I basically just wanted to do it for myself, but if anyone does want to do it then go ahead I’d love to see what other people read throughout their childhoods!


First Love – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

I’m sure this is one that pretty much everyone can relate too. Harry Potter was one of the first things I read (or had read to me when I was really young) and it’s remained my ultimate favourite ever since. I absolutely love high fantasy in which you can just become completely immersed and forget about any troubles you may have had at school that day or that deadline that’s fast looming over you that you should really be working on instead of reading Harry Potter… Not that I’ve ever done that haha.

I don’t even know what else there is to say about one of the best selling book series’ of all time. I’m sure you all have but if you haven’t read them DO IT! I firmly believe everyone should read these books before they die. Recently my gran told me she hadn’t seen the movies and I could not contain my horror.

Blyton's Famous Five.

Oldest Reading Memory – The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

These books take me right back to my oldest memories of reading as a child. I don’t think they’re books I would particularly enjoy reading now I’m 20, but back in the day I loved a bit of Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy. The one I remember the most is the “On Kirrin Island Again” book. I think I must’ve read that one over and over again. As much as looking back the characters’ speech is quite comical, I used to get pretty swept up in the drama of these guys’ summer holidays.


School Reading Memory – The Magic Key by Roderick Hunt

I’m not sure what everyone else read in the early years of school but I know that everyone at my school read a lot of books from The Magic Key series. I didn’t properly decide that English was my favourite subject until the end of secondary school but I definitely remember looking forward to reading what happened next with Biff, Chip and Kipper. This was so long ago I can hardly remember the individual storylines but I guess this series was pretty instrumental in me learning how to read, so deserves a mention in my opinion!


YA Favourite – Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

This is another super high fantasy series. I was really invested in the first book, then went on to read Inkspell and the start of Inkdeath. Unfortunately I think Inkdeath was either too advanced or too slow paced for my young mind but I remember absolutely loving Inkheart. A film adaptation was made of the book but unfortunately it wasn’t received very well and the sequel was never made. I’m not sure if it was the budget or just the wrong time, but I think that some amazing films could be made out of these books. Especially given the rise of the internet, fandoms and the popoularity of fantasy series’ like The Hunger Games.


Guilty Pleasure – My Diary by Liz Rettig

Well I can’t exactly claim that this was academically challenging or anything but I’ll be honest with you, I loved these books. At the end of the day reading is reading and sometimes it’s just fun to read something a bit silly. These books contained the over dramatic internal monologue of Kelly Ann and I lapped up every page until, full disclosure, I was probably too old for it to still be acceptable. Oh well, that’s why it’s a guilty pleasure, not ashamed!


Honourable Mention – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I can’t finish up this post without mentioning The Chronicles of Narnia. I can’t quite place in my mind what age I was when I started reading these books but I think I was quite young. I remember watching the 1988 BBC TV series with my best friend Megan when we were children and later seeing the movies. As I’ve said previously I love fantasy series’, it seems criminal that I still haven’t read the Lord of the Rings series (I know) but I will get around to it! Obviously when I was younger I never understood the heavy religious themes of the books (Aslan is literally a thinly veiled lion Jesus), but to me Edmund was the original bad ass and he just couldn’t deny himself that turkish delight! A classic.

Well that’s everything from me just now but please do this tag if you enjoyed it! I felt really nostalgic writing it but probably forgot so many things that I read when I was younger.

Until next time,

J x

Update: thought I would tag a few people who’s blogs I’ve been enjoying recently.