Books Everybody Should Read #2: The Bell Jar

Part two on my ‘must read’ list is this absolutely compelling book by Sylvia Plath.

the bell jar by sylvia plathNow, I’m not trying to sound smart, or even look smart, the only reason I wanted to read this book is because Julia Stiles’ character in 10 Things I Hate About You is seen reading it in the first few minutes of the film – it really does boil down to that. And the fact I was unemployed for two months and resorted to joining the local library…

As the only novel ever published by the writer and poet, I really didn’t know what to expect.

I found this to be one hell of a read – the story is of one woman’s fall into total alienation from herself, society and the world and is based on Plath’s spiral into depression.

The semi-autobiographical story is intensely emotional and nothing short of a beautiful read.

The story grabbed me right from the beginning – the protagonist, Esther Greenwood is interning at a major fashion magazine in New York City, and seems relatively normal.

Issues that even the generation of today can relate to, such as birth control, sexual experiences, and sexual harassment, are explored in the opening chapters. Then we spiral into a deep depression with her as she loses her way when she is rejected for a prestigious writing school. She becomes almost tormented by the idea of death, believing that to die is to be free.

There is just a tiny part, in Chapter Ten, where Esther decides to write a novel that I think is the best way for any new readers to get a small insight in to the dark mind of a depressed soul.

“My heroine would be myself, only in disguise. She would be called Elaine. Elaine. I counted the letters on my fingers. There were six letters in Esther, too. It seemed a lucky thing.”

I can’t help but wonder if this is how she felt when writing the novel.  From what I can gather from research, Plath successfully ended her life only a month after The Bell Jar was released, after multiple suicide attempts, in 1963.

Fifty one years later her book is one that is highly acclaimed in American Literature, and rightly so.

Don’t go in to reading this book with a closed mind, as a young female I loved it. Though it is quite heavy reading, so I probably wouldn’t take it to the beach.

Have you read this book? Let us know what you think.

– love Carla x

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