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.