Fiction/Semi-Autobiographical, originally published under a pseudonym in 1963
Faber and Faber UK, trade pb, 234 p.
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.I don’t claim to know a lot about Sylvia Plath, only what I’ve picked up here and there, but I think that even someone who had never heard of her before would realise that she is writing from experience here. Like the blurb above says, Esther’s descent into madness is so real and yet logical, you feel like you understand what has brought her to this point. I don’t think it affected me as much as it might have had I read it at a younger age, but I can see how it has had a profound effect on many, and I’m glad I finally read it. She has written about a heavy subject in a way that is highly readable and accessible to anyone. As for her poetry, well, that unfortunately remains elusive and quite beyond me. I have put Ariel back on the shelf for the time being and will try again some other time.
"[W]herever I sat - on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air."My Rating: 3.5/5
"To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream."
"How did I know that someday - at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere - the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn't descend again?"
(#17 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #4)