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Book Review of The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Paperback
perryfran avatar reviewed on + 1159 more book reviews


I went into this book not knowing a whole lot about Sylvia Plath. I knew that she was a poet and had written The Bell Jar, her only novel and that she committed suicide at age 30. The Bell Jar is really a hard hitting novel with its depictions of mental illness. It was reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest but to me was more poignant in that it was really a semi-biographical account of Plath's younger life. The protagonist's name in the novel is Esther and the novel recounts her life as a young guest editor of a teen magazine and her steady mental breakdown. Plath describes these bouts of mental illness as being inside a bell jar where the air is stifling and there is no way out. After an attempted suicide, Esther is put into an asylum with the crude care of 1950's psychiatry including shock treatments and insulin therapy. She is eventually able to leave but she never knows when the "bell jar" will descend on her life again.

Plath's writing was very descriptive and not all of it was depressing. There is humor spread throughout the novel and some have compared this to a female version of Catcher in the Rye. But this really gave an eye-opening account of mental illness and depression and overall I would recommend it highly.