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

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 brookiecowles.com) 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!

Rules

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

QUESTIONS:

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