The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


How on earth do you ever write about The Bell Jar? It is such a well-known, loved, critically acclaimed, hated book – and one that most people have read. It’s been on my list of ‘embarrassed that I haven’t read it yet’ books for ages. And I have to say, it was not what I expected.

It starts with Esther Greenwood in New York as she negotiates her way through an internship program at a magazine. She has hopes for the future, but upon returning home, she sinks into a depression that is deepened when she discovers she has not been accepted into a writing course that she had been counting on. Things get worse and eventually she is hospitalized.

Overall, I found it quite funny a lot of the time but also deeply, deeply tragic and awful. I’m very glad I didn’t read it as a teenager as I suspect I was easily influenced and may well have found myself attempting to write poetry and stare deeply out windows thinking that perhaps I had depression rather than pretentiousness copycatting. I suspect. Reading it with somewhat more mature perspective (maybe only slightly, but still…), I found it challenging but beautiful. I’m glad I’m now in the club.

2 thoughts on “The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

  1. I completely agree. It wasn’t at all what I expected when I read it for the first time earlier this year. But it is beautiful in its own strangely detached way. I was struck by how light it was. So much happens to Esther, deeply emotionally wrenching stuff, yet Plath’s writing just floats through so elegantly. Glad to hear someone else hadn’t read it until recently too 🙂

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