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The Bell Jar (Modern Classics) Paperback – Illustrated, August 2, 2005
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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 Collected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize. 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.
- Lexile Measure : 1050L
- Item Weight : 7.7 ounces
- Paperback : 244 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060837020
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060837020
- Product Dimensions : 8.02 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
- Publisher : Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Illustrated Edition (August 2, 2005)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #4,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The ‘story’ is all over the place, there is no continuity or reasoning behind any of it. It’s just a bunch of unrelated anecdotes that are left unfinished. There is no character development, and as someone who struggles with mental illness I can not understand why this is supposed to be “a powerful novel” relating to mental illness. If anything, it barely brushed the subject. Yes, Esther ends up in a mental hospital - but there is NO development or indication how she got there, or her journey with the illness.
All in all, I’m severely disappointed, and irritated that I spent money and time on this book.
1st pic is supposed to have a space, 2nd pic is supposed to be “noise.”
there are more errors, but i didn’t feel sharing them was necessary.
The autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath, describing her painful ordeal when she becomes mentally ill is such a book.
This could have been a thoroughly depressing and self centred story in the hands of another and many may assume this when reading the blurb.
However do not be put off, because The Bell Jar is anything BUT depressing.
Plath writes with great humour and I laughed out loud more than once.
She also writes with the intelligence and skill of someone twice her age.
Her battle with mental illness (Bipolar Disorder) and her eventual recovery is written so honestly, so brilliantly I was more than impressed.
Of course there is sadness in the aftermath of the book because we know she actually took her own life at aged thirty, the same year The Bell Jar was published.
The world is a little worse off with the loss of this wonderful talent.
Anyone who has any inkling of how The Black Dog can grab you by the scruff of the neck from out of the blue will appreciate this book and anyone who simply enjoys outstanding literature will be equally impressed.
A great talent.
The story opens with Esther in New York, during the summer of her collegiate years, working and modeling for a prestigious NY magazine. Through many obscure and complex observations, we slowly get a picture of her; Boston suburbanite, Smith college-type on scholarship, the world literally at her feet. But it is, still at these beginning stages, the random comment or action that begins to creep in to her personality that makes the reader aware that something is not quite right. Sure enough, as we move on, Esther becomes more and more un-hinged, doing things far outside of her personality.
Soon we reach a point where she attempts suicide and discusses suicide as the answer to get her out from “under the Bell Jar.” The literary ease with which we go from NY magazine model to suicide victim is stark…I found myself having to put the book down occasionally to internalize what I’d just read. This is really an amazing ability that Plath had…flowing from one emotion to the other without noticing until the full force of Esther’s actions take hold. Where the first third of the novel is fairly light, the last two thirds are riveting, very difficult to put down. It’s very hard to understand how Plath had difficulty getting this work published…only under a pseudonym in 1963 London and not until 1971 in the U.S. after it had been turned down, harshly, by publisher Harper & Row. Today it is printed and re-printed in many languages and enjoys its well-deserved place among the literary classics.
To summarize, if one decides to delve into the classics, you can’t go wrong with this work. Dark, even frightful at times but always flowing and well written, The Bell Jar is both a stark referendum on mental illness and an amazing reading experience.
The elephant-in-the-room when reading this is A) it is known to be semi-autobiographical, and B) Sylvia Plath ended up committing suicide. That might for account how richly Plath captures depression -- how you rationalize the little things, the abrasive way nice, shiny, perfect things in the world exist around you, and the fear you can never feel the way you used to again. And I think the authenticity combined with Plath's stellar language (you can't take the poetry out of the poet) makes this probably among the best novels ever written about depression. The way Esther mulls over her virginity, her mother, her ex-boyfriend, and how to kill herself are enrapturing from beginning to end.
To me this is more 4.5 stars (or even 4.49), but rounded up because even the dullest parts of the novel are carried by witty narration and rhythmic prose. I don't think there'll be much to the story that will surprise a modern reader -- many stories have since followed the same structure of a young woman struggling with depression -- but none of them have the grace, humor, and merciless touch of Plath's words.
Top reviews from other countries
Uplifting it certainly isn't and disturbing, I found it so in places but I did read it in a couple of days as I felt I needed to get to the end.
Honestly it left me cold. Had Sylvia Plath lived would she be the icon she has become in death? I'm not sure. She could certainly write and of course Esther really is mostly living Sylvias own life experiences. They say write what you know and Sylvia Plath certainly did that.
I wish I could give this book a more positive review and it may be cool to idolize Sylvia Plath but it wasn't really for me nor do I consider it suitable reading for young vulnerable people struggling with mental health issues.
I'll go back to my chick lit and period dramas and keep MYSELF relatively sane.
Esther’s not quite feeling happy and satisfied since the beginning of Plath’s only novel, and the very ominous “I was supposed to be having the time of my life” immediately creates a feeling of unease. Her descent into depression is honestly depicted and brutal; it creates a knot in your stomach because it is so personal and relatable.
The struggle with herself and her reluctant, but fiercely human survival instincts (“[…] my heartbeat boomed like a dull motor in my ears. I am I am I am”), the expectations, the desire for independence, the frustration and the eventual numbness is not other-worldly. Instead, it is intimate and honest.
The road to recovery is slow, and Esther’s suspiciousness towards her support system and her own self is masterfully portrayed by someone who has clearly been through the experience. “How did [she] know that someday […] the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”
I wish I had studied this book at uni, so I could write essays on Plath’s masterpiece and its themes of feminism and depression. But, then again, I would not have been mentally or emotionally ready for it.