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The Bell Jar Paperback – Deckle Edge, October 17, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0061148514 ISBN-10: 0061148512

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The Bell Jar + The Collected Poems + The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright fellowship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Other posthumous publications include Ariel, her landmark publication, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061148512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061148514
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I highly recommend this book and am very grateful that I finally got around to reading it myself.
Juushika
The Bell Jar was one of the most substantial things written by Sylvia Plath, who was world-renowned for being one of America's best poets.
M. H. Levenson
This is a deeply moving book that gives quiet an accurate window into the experience of young women with mental illness.
Val

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By the debutante on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
In a world of over-medicated persons, "The Bell Jar" delivers what modern medicine cannot... a look into the life of a person without the use of modern medication or therapies. "The Bell Jar" delivers an insight into the world of the depressed woman, then and now. For a person in some sort of depressed state, Sylvia Plath gives us a world in which someone "understands".
While she did not end her life on a good note, for those in need of understanding and not just "a good read", "The Bell Jar" offers a shoulder to lean on... a possible much needed cry.

If you are reading this just as a classic novel, her metaphor and use of grammar to convey her life and loss is at it's peak. She give us a story thick with imagery, location, and tangible emotion. Her vivid scope of mental illness and the lengths one will go to in a chance to feel something other than a sense of loss or anguish, is all at once painful and beautiful. You know exactly where she is coming from, even if you have never experienced it for yourself. She transports us to a place and state of mind that is malicious and elegant... troubled and decadent.

Sylvia's poetry is wonderful, if that is what you are looking for. But it is her novels, short stories, letters, and prose that can send you to a place where even the average person feels a kinship with this tortured soul. And tortured is exactly what she conveys.... those demons that in the end, caught up with her all too soon.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Juushika on March 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
A largely autobiographic novel, The Bell Jar is a story of depression and mental illness. Esther is a poor student from a small town, on a scholarship to do guest editing for a New York magazine. Her time in New York, obsession with the power than men have over her, and own apathy gradually lead to a mental breakdown. Institutionalization, shock therapy, and suicide attempts follow, all closely mirroring Plath's own history. Written honestly, with great skill and talent, The Bell Jar gives insight into depression and mental illness and tells a very personal, depressing, unique story. It's a hard book to sum up and even to talk about, but I recommend it very, very highly to all readers.

As fascinating as this book was, as clear as the writing is, I find it difficult to talk about. The Bell Jar is perhaps the best memoir/book on depression and mental illness, providing a very human, realistic, and identifiable view of depression from the inside out. Plath writes so clearly that it is impossible not to understand her protagonist and the events in her life. As such, it's an informative, invaluable novel which allows the reader to understand, even experience, a point of view that would otherwise be unknown to them--and so it can be a very emotional book to read.

Besides this measure of intrinsic value, the novel simply reads and moves well. It is a memoir, not an detective story or a romantic novel, and as such the plot isn't the focus: rather, it is characters and experiences that matter. The honest, gritty memoir is reminiscent of The Catcher in the Rye (although, I would say, much better). But the story is still compelling: not matter how gritty, even through the mental breakdowns, Esther is so well-written that the reader ca identify and sympathize with her throughout.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Czar of Arkansas on November 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
Sylvia Plath has in many circles been something of the poster child for modern nihilism, almost to the point of a cultural in-joke (see Fight Club), but the first thing I was struck with was how witty and humorous The Bell Jar starts. For example, this passage:

"I'd discovered, after a lot of extreme apprehension about what spoons to use, that if you do something incorrect at table with a certain arrogance, as if you knew perfectly well you were doing it properly, you can get away with it and nobody will think you are bad mannered or poorly brought up. They will think you are original and very witty."

Second, it didn't take long to figure out how much modern "chick lit" owes to Plath. Before shopaholics and Prada-wearing Devils, Plath had already been there and done that, all the way down to the poor girl working in the NYC fashion magazine angle.

Third, I was touched by the humanity that Plath brings to some tricky subjects: coming of age, sexuality, career-setting, societal pressure, care for the mentally ill, homosexuality, and social shallowness, just to name a few. Her descriptions of Esther Greenwood's trip into madness isn't like watching a specimen under her famous bell jar; you get the feeling that you're watching a living, breathing human being who is trying to find a way out of the mental and emotional box canyons in which she feels trapped.

I felt myself connected to Esther in ways that I didn't feel in that other work of 60's young adult angst, The Catcher in the Rye. Where Esther Greenwood is smart, creative, troubled, and desperate, Holden Caulfield is merely smug, whiny, spoiled, and self-obsessed. It's not hard to see why Caulfield resonated with many 60's social elites, since they share some of the same characteristics.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Viola Alvarez on October 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
I reread the Bell Jar every couple of years and have done so since I was 18. It's so much more than a morbid ride or a thinly-veiled autobiography. It's one of few great coming-of-age stories that we have as women. I've long since stopped reading this book as a glimpse into Sylvia's soul or coming suicide. I've also stopped reading it as a precursor to the coming feminist movement of the 1960s. I'm drawn back to it again and again because it's simply a well-told story. It's subtle, complex and occasionally very very funny.
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