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The Bell Jar Paperback – 1978

725 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: FABER AND FABER (1978)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003FNLZ62
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (725 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,274,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 in Massachusetts. Her books include the poetry collections The Colossus, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Ariel, and The Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Plath is credited with being a pioneer of the 20th-century style of writing called confessional poetry. Her poem "Daddy" is one of the best-known examples of this genre.

In 1963, Plath's semi-autobiographic novel The Bell Jar was published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas"; it was reissued in 1966 under her own name. A complete and uncut facsimile edition of Ariel was published in 2004 with her original selection and arrangement of poems. She was married to the poet Ted Hughes, with whom she had a daughter, Frieda, and a son, Nicholas. She died in London in 1963.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

211 of 220 people found the following review helpful By Graham V. Foy on December 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I personally find Sylvia Plath's journals her most interesting work, but this comes in at a close second. This book will challenge just about anyone who reads it, whether you're depressed or not. If you've never been depressed in the way Esther is, you're going to ask yourself why she torments herself for no reason and perhaps feel that the storyline is implausible. the deeper you go into the book, the less sympathy you'll feel for her. If you HAVE been as depressed as Esther gets, you'll feel challenged for another reason: the book will reach TOO far into your mind and make TOO deep a connection with you because, well, Sylvia Plath describes depression very well. Her writing tends to make you feel like you and no one else are experiencing what she's going through with her, and it's pretty disturbing. However, it's also a quite rewarding experience. A "bell jar" is just a very apt term for a distorted view of the world that presents everything as seemingly inherently bad. Esther lives under one all the time, and she's not truly aware of it. Eventually her life is turned into a constant waking nightmare because she can't even say what's wrong with her. It's painful to read but it makes for some damn good reading. Reading this book will give you a very graphic idea of what it's like to live under a bell jar and what happens to people who live in permanent ones. You probably won't be the same after you read it.
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257 of 290 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on February 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book immediately following "Girl, Interrupted" by Susanna Kaysen. This was an interesting coincidence because both these novels are (nearly) autobiolgraphical accounts of mental traumas these women suffered in their early 20's. In fact, both women had resided in the same mental hospital during their recuperation. I finished "Girl, Interrupted" a bit confused on how I had ever rationalized spending my time reading such a book in the first place. The author's over-personification of the trite theme of "crazy may be sane" wasn't even accompanied by a plot. Sadly enough, the most interesting part of the novel was the excerpt taken from a psychology textbook describing Kaysen's diagnosis. Then, I picked up "The Bell Jar," not knowing what it was about, and read it. It was everything "Girl, Interrupted" had tried to be and wasn't. The main character's experiences were real and meaningful, and the book itself tried less to shock its readers by trying to include monumental meaning, but instead, simply told its tale in a beautiful and harrowing way that perfectly reverberated the all-too-familiar struggles of a young woman emerging into an unfamiliar world that in its simpleness, conveyed more than even Kaysen could ever fathom being bestowed upon a reader.
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203 of 236 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Setterfield on October 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've been trying to broaden my reading range by throwing in a few classics here and there. One I had been interested in for quite some time is The Bell Jar. And with the Sylvia Plath movie coming out soon, I thought reading this book might be a nice complement to that. And what a real pleasure it turned out to be!
The Bell Jar does not read like a classic - "classic" being the term of very old books with very old language - the description I've always had for the classic genre. This book has a very contemporary writing style, and despite it being written in the 1960s, The Bell Jar's topic of mental illness certainly transcends the generations and can be related by many people no matter when they read the book. I absolutely loved it!
The Bell Jar tells the story of a young Esther Greenwood at the beginning of her mental decline. She first recognizes its oncoming during a summer of interning at a magazine company in New York City. Trying to fit in with the other interns, as well as dealing with boys and co-workers prove to be a struggle at times for Esther. And later, when the real depression and suicidal thoughts set in, readers are invited into a dark and scary world, one created realistically and with honesty by Ms. Plath.
This book ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. I'm so glad I read it. From now on, if people want to read a classic (or a darn good book for that matter), I won't hesitate to suggest The Bell Jar. It's fantastic!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Lesley Freitas on June 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like millions of other young women, I'm sure, I came across "The Bell Jar" in college, and I felt an immediate attachment to the book: it uplifted me, angered me, scared me, and made me feel deeply protective, all at the same time.

"The Bell Jar" tells the story of Esther Greenwood, an intelligent college student, as she slowly feels the "bell jar" of detachment and madness overtake her. As Esther goes from a prestigious internship in New York City to a summer at home with her mother in the Boston suburbs, her attachment to reality becomes more and more tenuous, until thoughts of suicide overtake her.

It is no secret that the story has at least a partial basis in reality, and that Sylvia Plath is writing from her own experience is perhaps what makes Esther so deeply real. I recently wrote a review of "Bridget Jones' Diary," and although "The Bell Jar" is undoubtedly a better book, there is a certain similarity between the protagonists: like Bridget, Esther is a character who is almost universally relatable. It does not matter if the reader is psychologically healthy or not: Esther awakens what she is feeling in all of us. My emotional response to "The Bell Jar" was on par with my emotional response to certain real-life events. I was uplifted to find a shared experience; angered at Esther's responses--and at the fact that they seemed reasonable to me; scared at the uncertainty I felt about myself and my own psychological state by the end of the book; and deeply protective--of Esther, of Sylvia Plath, and of every other reader who shared my experience.

I recognize that specifically speaking of the female experience when reading "The Bell Jar" could be considered rather narrow-minded of me.
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