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The Bell Jar: A Novel (Perennial Classics) First Perennial Clas Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,207 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060930189
ISBN-10: 0060930187
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Esther Greenwood's account of her years in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing....[This] is not a potboiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures: it is literature." -- New York Times

"The first-person narrative fixes us there, in the doctor's office, in the asylum, in the madness, with no reassuring vacations when we can keep company with the sane and listen to their lectures." -- Book World

"The narrator simply describes herself as feeling very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel. The in-between moment is just what Miss Plath's poetry does catch brilliantly--the moment poised on the edge of chaos." -- Christian Science Monitor
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Product Details

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; First Perennial Clas edition (February 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060930187
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060930189
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #632,750 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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