The Bell Jar
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Product Description

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.

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

Customer Reviews:

  • The Bell Jar
    Flat out one of the best novels I've ever read. I've read her poems before and never really cared for them. I'm going to go back and read a few now that I have a perspective on who she was.

    I saw one reviewer say he/she didn't understand how people found this novel thought provoking or moving. Well, I wouldn't consider it either one for me. What I did find was a candid story about a deeply troubled teenage girl in the first half of the twentieth century.

    This should be on high school reading lists long before Tolstoy's eloquent yet stale Anna Karenina.. just to name one off the top of my head....more info
  • Unexpected Misery Is The Worst
    With the seas of collective enigma and awe that surrounds Sylvia Plath, this first and last novel of hers flows like that sea itself. 'The Bell Jar' starts off with a taste you can almost feel tingling on the tip of your tongue. That taste is hollowness.
    As Esther Greenwood tries to have that time of her life she thought she would getting this chance of a lifetime, she begins to experience an emptiness of sorts which, clearly, lies beyond words.
    Even as one reads the sentence after sentence, one is pulled in between those blank spaces to a world so completely black. As Esther describes the beginning of her breakdown, you begin to almost hear Sylvia Plath whispering the written words so ominously in your ears - whether you know how she sounds or not.
    For years Plath enchanted people with her poetry, but she knew she could manage more than that. With 'The Bell Jar' Miss Sylvia certainly manages MUCH more. Beautiful descriptions, believable, enriching dialogue, and a story that will resonate in the core of your heart forever.
    Some part of this book are so eerily haunting that you feel the pain Esther, and likely Miss Sylvia, must have felt. The hurting sometimes is so deep that you begin to wonder what it really would be like to be trapped in such a prison. Of course, those who already feel this melancholy - like myself - will be more than attracted to this book as it can become like a shared secret between the reader and the character.
    What also pleases me is this is a first-person narrative. The book is supposed to describe a 'crack-up' of sorts but the way Esther talks of what is slowly creeping into her, you can see that she is not 'crazy' at all but a human being at the end of the day.
    That personal, private touch to 'The Bell Jar' is a definite part in the success of this book. One is left to wonder what Sylvia Plath, a woman with such great words sprouting from the depths of her mind, could have written in the lost years of a life she chose to end. ...more info
  • Intrinsically valuable and written with great skill, this is a wonderful novel. Highly recommended
    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. Furthermore, the text reads smoothly and quickly while still chronicling some truly harrowing and depressing events. The book is compelling, well-written, and worthwhile not only as a memoir of depression but also as a skillful novel.

    The rest of my thoughts about the text are lengthy rambles on women, madness/mental illness, and writing, but they are out of place here. The only thing to leave you with is a strong recommendation of The Bell Jar. Read it--there's nothing more complex than that. It is an accessible novel, both in length and writing style; it is skillful, a masterly work; the description of depression, of treatment, of interaction with the rest of the world is worthwhile for anyone to read. I highly recommend this book and am very grateful that I finally got around to reading it myself....more info
  • Falls short of expectations of "brilliance"
    I am almost sorry to say that my reading of Sylvia Plath's novel "The Bell Jar" was not nearly as moving or thought-provoking as it seems to be for so many. In my opinion, "The Bell Jar"'s Esther Greenwood is entirely unsympathetic, to the detriment of the novel. While I recognize the necessity of emphasizing her deterioration, I found her to be overly melodramatic and weak (while still recognizing her "condition"), and I loathed her from the start. While I will allow that Plath's prose is more eloquent than her poetry I failed to find evidence of the brilliance so often extolled. ...more info
  • Ugh
    I read this book in highschool and it nearly ruined modern fiction for me. I'm older now, have a masters degree in English, and I still find this book a boring, uninteresting, waste of time. To me Plath tries too hard to come across broken and tragic in her writing. Why do so many people think that a character's descent into madness makes for good reading? Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone is equally a waste of time in this regard. ...more info
  • Not good untill page 128...
    Ya know how an artist's work isn't worth much until he/she dies? Well this is what happened here. Now I see why it wasn't going to be published when she was alive. Because it is BORING!(The book was published 6 weeks after Sylvia Plath committed suicide. Things always sell better after they are dead.) The entire first half of the book is so monotoned I found myself putting the book down quite often. I kept thinking "when will she go insane and be interesting?" I have to say that her description of things was intelligently written it was just so BORING!

    Let me sum the book up for you and save you the money....girl gets job in NY, girl meets boy, girl dumps boy, girl goes slightly insane, girl goes into a rehab/asylum, girl is up for getting out of the asylum, book ends......just like that! The worst ending ever!

    I really am torn by giving authors a poor rating because I know how hard they work on their writing but this book was just arrrgghhh boring....more info
  • What?
    This was so horrible I couldn't even finish it. It makes absolutely no sense and tends to ramble. How in the world people think this is fabulous and classic literature is beyond me. I want my money back for this piece of junk....more info
  • Was This Really Meant to Be Published?
    Sylvia Plath was a mentally sick person who was encouraged by one of her psychiatrists to write. I have seen photographs of her and Ted Hughes, and Sylvia is in an appaling state. I can't even relate what Sylvia is doing in one of the photographs. It's sad. I hope that she found some comfort in writing, but honestly, was this meant to be published?

    It's not a surprise that many readers find this repulsive. English teachers/professors should not require students to read this; it goes against every basic human tendency to be happy and not to be anti-life. I don't know how else to put this but the best writers aren't suicides. Don't read them. Their opus is one long goodbye note. ...more info
  • A fine balance
    A story about a young girl who experiences a nervous breakdown, I saw so much truth in this book, that I was left thinking, but that's not so different from me, albeit a little more extreme. And believe me I am not even close to a nervous breakdown, but it demonstrted how fine that balance can be.
    Excellent....more info
  • Plath is Full of Talent
    I picked up this book purely out of curiosity. I wanted to see how someone with mental illness was able to construct such a well-known novel and in the end found that I was deeply impressed with the skill of Plath's writing. She is very talented in her use of words and I found the book engaging to read.

    I assume (because I have never ready any other book like this) that it's a rare thing for a book to capture a glimpse into the thoughts of someone that is mentally ill. I was expecting a fragmented and disjointed writing and was surprised that many of her experiences and thoughts were reminiscent of other women at a post-college age--perhaps, to an extent, even my own. Thoughts of inadequacy, self-doubt, and direction-less-ness often plague young adults and Ester showed all of the symptoms that coincide with "growing up." Of course her problems run much deeper. Caused by something that I cannot figure out and that society is still looking for answers on. Plath's real life story is a tragic one and you can only hope that books like this can help society find the answer to lifting the bell jar.

    All in all I liked this book. I found there is a theme to the books that I enjoy most--female heroine and time period setting. Like Francie Nolan growing up during the depression (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), Cal Stephhanides with the riots of Detroit (Middlesex), I very much enjoyed reading about the experiences and thoughts of Ester Greenwood in mid-1950s New England.

    The forward of this book mentioned that 80% of female poets suffer from mental illness. I was astounded by this number. In today's society you don't really hear about sanatoriums, asylums and the shock therapy that was depicted in the book set in the 1950s--today you hear about anti-depressant medications and sessions with psychiatrists. It was interesting to read about how mental illness was treated.
    ...more info
  • i get it now
    i remember reading plath's poems in highschool...never quite understanding them. feeling bored by them. but this book...if you've ever felt yourself clawing at the edges of your sanity, this book will hit you in the gut. ...more info
  • Maybe I don't get it.
    The other night A&E Classroom ran an excellent biography of Sylvia Plath. I was very moved by the story of this brilliant woman who died so young and so tragically. I knew of her name from long ago having grown up just down the road from Smith; however, I never read any of her work. I just read The Bell Jar. While I will never forget the tormented story of Esther Greenwood, I would not rate this as a masterpiece of fiction. Perhaps the real talent is in her poetry. ...more info
  • Bell Jar
    Product OK condition, but took a while for delivery. Just arrived today, March 13. ...more info
  • A work of Art. This is Poetry to any knowledgeable reader. A must have!
    I cannot begin to tell you how striking this book is; its words are full of poetry and exquisite descriptions. Its narrative is vivid and outstanding and its intensity is extraordinary.
    Esther is perturbed, she is a loner in a world of multiple possibilities; she has so much to choose from that she begins her descent into a world of darkness known only to those who are really desperate, to those who have the tendency of breaking with reality to those who experience a deep breakdown.

    The power of this material is astounding and the attention to imagery and rhetoric is ruthless.

    I recommend it and give it 10 stars. Unforgettable.
    ...more info
  • not quite a classic
    I'll admit that this is a good book, and it certainly has its insights into insanity However, I did not learn as much as I was hoping to. I suppose that if you have not had a mental illness, then this book will seem very enlightening, but for me it was not. I can only remember two parts that seemed to capture what it was like to be going through the onset of her illness. One was where she was staring at the ceiling (I believe) and she is caught just staring like that until the phone rings. This I will admit is very much a real trait that most readers will miss as indicative. She does point out the dread there was for her with electro convulsive therapy, which had a dose of reality to it. However, that's about it. There are better books out there about mental illness, if that is the subject that you are looking for. "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest" is the first that comes to mind. Some of Poe's stories are also classic in this regard. And I would also include "Fight Club" on this list. But like I said, if you are looking for something about insanity and you are hoping for a look into the mind of the ill, I don't really recomend "The Bell Jar."...more info
  • sylvia will take apart your soul
    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. "the bell jar" delivers an insight into the world of the depressed woman, then and now. having been in a depressed state for most of my life, sylvia plath gives me a world in which someone "understands".
    she did not end her life on a good note, but 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. sylvia's poetry is wonderful, if that is what you are looking for. but her novels, short stories, letters, and prose can send you to a place where even the average person feels a kinship with this tortured soul....more info
  • An Exceptional Book, Read Exceptionally
    As one who suffers, somewhat, from ADHD, reading books have become a chore for me. Sylvia Plath's THE BELL JAR has always held a fascination for me, given my existential love of Dostoyevsky and others, but it is one I have only read bits and pieces of, from time-to-time.

    This audio book, read by Maggie Gyllenhall, literally "blew me away" with its over developed sentences woven by Ms. Plath, woven in such a manner as sugar crystals cross and re-cross each other as they form cotton candy at the county fair each fall in the small Southern neck of the woods where I was raised. I had heard of Ms. Gyllenhall, and knew of her movies, but I was not prepared to listen to such an exceptional audio interpretation, read in a manner that captured the essence of Ms. Plath's downward spiral into insanity.

    The words are sheer poetry, with metaphors written upon metaphors, in such a manner that enhances, rather than confuse, the spirit of the book and, and an almost innate understanding of what she is going through. While one wishes, hopes, prays, that she'll get better, the reader remembers, with sadness, how this allegorical account of Ms. Plath has no happy ending....

    If you haven't read THE BELL JAR, or even if you have, and you have seven plus hours to immerse yourself in a great undertaking, do buy this audio book and reflect upon a pleasure one gets from hearing a true wordsmith write of the confusion she along must deal with called "life."

    ...more info
  • Phenomenally well written
    For the last three years I've had The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath on my TBR (to be read) list. Recently when I saw an audio version on CDs, unabridged, I couldn't resist. Wow, this was a wonderful experience, albeit a sad one as well. The reader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, was wonderful. She had just the right voice, the perfect attitude, and even looks a little like Sylvia Plath, so far as I can see from the small photos on the back of the CD case.

    I knew, going in, that this was to be a book about insanity, and semi-autobiographical. Typical for a first novel, to want to write about oneself. Of course after I listened to the book I had to do a lot more research because I was fascinated by Sylvia Plath and her brief but eventful life. She was primarily a poet and short story writer who received a guest editorship position at Mademoiselle magazine in New York City by winning a short story contest in 1953. This is where her novel, The Bell Jar, starts, though she renamed the magazine, the main character, and the hotel at which she stayed.

    In the book, the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, gradually falls apart mentally while interning at a magazine in New York City. She eventually has to leave to move back in with her mother, and from there things get worse. If you compare the novel with her actual life, there are many similarities.

    In real life, she recovered from her breakdown and married Ted Hughes, another poet. They had two children and lived in England and later, in Massachusetts. Her first and only novel, The Bell Jar, was published on January 14, 1963 in England under a pseudonym, Victoria Lucas. Less than a month later, on February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath took her own life using gas fumes from her oven. She must have been depressed due to a separation from her husband due to his infidelity, and the pressures of being a single parent, isolated, and unable to afford adequate winter heating or even a telephone.

    I hope someday to read her unedited journals and some of her poetry, and perhaps some short stories. There also are several biographies about her available. She had an amazing talent for putting the reader in the midst of a situation, right into the thinking process of a deranged protagonist. I felt the narrative of her novel was phenomenally well done. She knew first hand about insanity, and let us in on the secret of how it could happen and what it is like to fall apart mentally, gradually, one step at a time. It is definitely a novel I'd put on my list of books every serious reader should experience at least once....more info
  • Exactly what I expected
    I purchased two copies, one for my daughter and one as a Gift for her Literature teacher. We are very happy with the books!...more info
  • Depression as a way of life?
    I've been an avid reader of Sylvia Plath's writing for quite some time. It was her works that lead me into the realm of poetry. When I discovered that she had written a book, I was beyond thrilled. It always humbles me to take an adventure through her life guided by her vivid imagery, and this book was certainly nothing short of that.

    The Bell Jar starts at a point in her life where she is in New York apprenticing as a journalist for a magazine. It is here that her mental stability begins to decay. From that time on, the main character, Esther Greenwood, reflects on the events in her life that lead up to her condition.

    As someone with a generally differing take on life, I appreciate this book for it's representation of the alternative mind set. This book does not come out and say that the main character is ill, they set up her depression as a chronic piece of Esther's life. The presentation of a serious mental state being shown to the world as something relatable and relatively normal is, I think, a commendable ability. With that in mind, I would recommend it to anyone who is opened to an opposing thought process, it may just change your view on life....more info
    This has to be one of my favorite novels of all time. I could honestly reread it over and over (and I have) and never get bored. It's written to believably, so hauntingly true, that it leaves you thinking maybe Miss Plath came in, stole your diary, and published it. I hate to spoil anything, but I will say anyone who is a perfectionist MUST READ THIS! ...more info
  • Excellent
    This book is pretty great. When I first started it, it felt sort of like a female Catcher in the Rye. Esther is a likeable character and a relatable teen in the beginning. Then her journey into a nervous breakdown begins. It is an interesting look into what was most likely Plath's battle with mental illness. I recommend the book. It is a quick, easy read and not nearly as dark as some others seem to describe it as being. ...more info
  • Poetic
    I think the reason why a lot of people haven't taken to her writing style is because you have to keep in mind that Sylvia Plath was, first and foremost, a poet - not a novelist. There is an honesty and poetic quality that embodies every single word of this book. This is not a book that was written to make people feel sorry for her and if you met Esther Greenwood in real life you may not even like her, but one thing you do come away with after reading this book is an understanding of how a person can go from functional to suicidal in a matter of days.

    It's hard to understand under what conditions a person could commit suicide if you have never attempted it yourself (I never have.) And if you can't understand, you can't appreciate how real a suicidal person's feelings are. In this book, Sylvia lays out her feelings and thoughts with such honesty and poignancy that it literally becomes painful to imagine her suffering.

    Besides suicide, the other major issue covered in this book is the feminist double-standard. Why is it that men who sleep with many women are congratulated and women who sleep with many men are socially chastised? She touches on this subject through her encounters with men. You can feel her frustration and anger with the double-standard and you know (knowing what is to come later on in the book) that this only exacerbates her feelings of hopelessness.

    It's sad that poets are so underappreciated in our society. Overall, this is one of the best books written... ever. Poets write great prose because they see beauty and sadness where others see ordinary. Then they translate this to the written word and it becomes a glorious celebration of language....more info
  • Please enter a title for your review
    Esther, the main character, is a racist, homophobic narcissist, as superficial as she is sensitive, as innocently waifish as she is ruthlessly passive-aggressive, always needing more than the world has to offer. She's an interesting mass of contradictions, but for me ultimately unlikeable, making the first-person narration sometimes hard to take.
    The first half of the book, set in New York where Esther is interning or something at a women's magazine, is the most engaging. It's like a cross between Sex And The City and My So-Called Life. She indulges fully in the glamorous lifestyle she is afforded on the company dime, but laments being numb to the experience.
    In the second half the narration continues taking a more lamenting than expository tone, ranging in effect from tragically romantic, when she actively commits to her decision to give up on life, to just whiney, when she seems to be demanding sympathy for insensitive or cruel treatment she suffers but does little to combat or avoid. The book seems more like a plea for pity than understanding a lot of the time.
    There are a few uniquely effective instances of metaphor and descriptive writing, but many more that are banal enough to encourage skimming, so whatever points Plath earns for vision are lost for filler.
    All in all I can't say the book's not interesting, but I can't say I'd recommend it. ...more info
  • This broad could write!
    And I don't mean she was a good writer for a broad: she could really and truly write. That said, this is a worthwhile book to read (for everyone, not just poetry chicks with hirsute gams), and it won't take very long. ...more info
  • a story about mental illness
    This book was really funny and really honest. But that's what I liked about it.

    It was kind of frustrating because you just wanted the main character to snap out of it. I know mental illness is serious and these people cannot help themselves from feeling the way they do, but it was really frustrating because I do not share her same opinions about life and I try really hard not to be so helpless and reliant on other people to fix problems in my life. Also she talks a lot about the burden of being a woman. I think just because women have the challenge of giving birth, it is really a gift of closeness to our mothers and ancestors that nobody can take away.

    Just like some people never find real love, I think Sylvia takes her emotions for granted. Like she's supposed to feel great all the time. Being a genius sometimes means being more sensitive and vulnerable to feelings of depression, but that doesn't mean she should give up. Because in the end everyone dies. We're supposed to share our sympathy for humanity, but Sylvia doesn't really care about anybody but herself because she's so alone and afraid to reach out.

    All in all, I don't think this book has a positive message. There's a difference between honesty and helplessness. She's kind of helpless....more info
  • Poetry in Prose
    The Bell Jar tells the captivating story of Esther Greenwood, a gifted young woman who has just completed her arduous internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The novel, written entirely in first person, chronicles her mental breakdown and subsequent emotional deterioration.

    This work is a roman clef, in which some or all of the characters in the book are based on actual people, and the happenings in the novel are rooted in real occurrences. Typically this style is used on sensitive subjects, or subjects with which the author is not entirely comfortable revealing all the information. This novel was obviously quite emotionally close to Plath, who could be described as the real-life Esther Greenwood. Originally released under the pen name Victoria Lucas, the book was modified to be in Sylvia Plath's name only after her suicide in 1971.

    Though often associated with severe sadness or depression, The Bell Jar can be very humorous, but not always in an obvious way. Plath writes using dry humor, being, at times, extremely cynical. She expresses a strong disdain for those who choose to follow convention, such as marrying and having children, believing those to be unexceptional and simple paths of life.

    Plath's skill is unmistakable and her experience as a poet is quite evident. Alliteration and assonance are scattered in the pages of The Bell Jar, and Plath employs various other literary devices throughout the novel to enrich the reading experience. Symbolism is another tool commonly used by the author. Esther glimpses into several mirrors during her stay at the psychiatric ward, often mistaking her reflection for that of another. This lack of self-recognition reveals Esther's struggle to fully comprehend herself and this symbolism demonstrates Plath's insight into the human condition.

    To be direct, I adore this book. I find the character Esther to be the perfect combination of skepticism and wit, refusing to conform to meet the standards of her time. Her resilience and individuality ripple forth from the pages of this book like the interruption of still water by a stone.

    Having said all of this, I probably would not recommend The Bell Jar. I say this not because of any fault of the book, but for my own selfish reasons. As it is, I feel not everyone has the capacity to genuinely appreciate this bok. Reading this novel without that capacity runs the risk of depreciating it based on misunderstanding. In a way, those who choose to pursue this piece of literature deserve the knowledge it holds, and this prevents the book from becoming commonplace. It should be kept-- like a secret among friends. ...more info
  • a masterpiece
    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. In college I took an array of poetry classes, I enjoyed them to an extent, and I always did well in them. But poetry has never really affected me like it has other people. A lot of it is pretentious, and a lot of it is hard to understand. But Plath eased in well to prose; it was excellent.

    Initially this wasn't a big seller (partly due to her using the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas"), but after her very tragic suicide in 1963, the novel took on a new fame.

    It's about a smart college girl in the 1950s; starts just after the Rosenbergs are electrocuted (as it states on page one). This young woman is spending a semester in New York City working for a reputable fashion magazine, as an intern, winning her spot with twelve others for academic excellence: for her it was writing a particular poem. The book follows her life for approximately a year; from New York to Massachusetts (Plath's originally from Boston). It's a "confessional-prose" masterpiece.

    ...more info
  • Exploring the hazy barrier between sane and insane
    Reading The Bell Jar, I have uncomfortable moments where I see whispers of Esther's insanity in myself. Plath has created a character (or maybe recorded herself in a way) that is eminently believable, and begins the book with a personality that doesn't hint at what is to come later. Her apathy and distraction grow so gradually, normality and madness blend into each other so finely, that it is disconcertingly jarring to realize how hazy and meaningless the word "normal" really is. For some reason we seem to expect that we would know insanity instantly were we to see it, or experience it, ourselves. But of course the difference between a "normal" person and a person suffering from a mental disorder is a construct of our society, not an immutable distinction. This book is beautifully written, with many scenes that linger in my memory. It ends ambiguously, but the sad story of its author gives the entire work a somber feel....more info
  • A truthful worthy classic of the American canon.
    In my neurotic workings to make myself a more literate & urbane creature, i've undertaken a number of the recommended "reading lists" that have come to plague my life, psyche and bank account. To many of you who have probably already read this novel and are just glazing your brain away at amazon reviews, you will not be suprised the Mrs. Plath's novella graced a spot on many of the said lists. Also, over the years i've always come to notice the books reputation, often for darkness. Naturally being a guy, i've also not failed to notice that the Bell Jar is often a well placed accessory of many if the stylish thinking-girl types.(I swear i've not met a man who has read it, or admits to having read it)
    So I plunged into it, expecting a maddening, dark tale that would explain the trend of certain girls who like to cut themselves. Instead I was just impressed that i could see the very honest report of feelings of depression and anxiety. It wasn't really dark at all I felt, it just showed well what it is like to be in that realm of detachment and uncertainity that a great deal of youths have found themselves in. I almost hate to say it because i know that it is trite, but the novel makes a good companion piece with Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. The book was enough to make me interested in Plaths poetry as well,(i'm very interested in reading Ariel), and now I feel I can property join the thousands of others who are sad that such a talent was been snuffed out so early and unable to have a full life of work within the realm of American letters....more info
  • just a great read!
    one I will read again and again. Just a great read. everyone should read it and remember how great a story this is!...more info
  • If you've ever considered "crazy" normal this is for you.
    I found myself saying aloud "I know" "Excatly!"
    To be cliche and say that I found myself in this book is not justice.
    I felt for her in all of her thoughts, and actions.
    I was constantly saying to myself "she's not crazy this is normal."
    Terrific book for anyone who ever finds themselves thinking that the day to day actions we do are frivolous....more info
  • The Cosmic Fade Out
    I am a 35 year old male. This shouldn't matter, but as "The Bell Jar" over the years has become more a punchline than literature, the fact that I was not a young woman between the ages of 16 and 23 kept me from tackling it. I was pretty sure I couldn't relate. This is a fallacy of my own making. This book IS about being a woman to an extent, but it is also a profound look into the nature of humanity and the often inane way that we just begin to slip and then fall. There are always deeper reasons for slipping into darkness, but the reality is that they are not necessarily clear when we are fighting off the demons. This is where therapists often fail. They need to NAME the cause of the malady, like dianosing you with cancer. Where Plath succeeds most in her book is her treatment of the unknown quality of the downward spiral. Sure, peppered throughout the book there and hints and allegations of potential trauma, but, thankfully, they are not dwelt upon. It does get a bit obtuse in the middle, but it quickly snaps itself back into shape for a very profound final scene. I highly recommend it FOR ANY READER. It is a hell of a lot better than the incredibly overrated "Catcher In The Rye"....more info
  • Page turner
    Like another reviewer stated, I also took this book at face value and thoroughly enjoyed it. Esther Greenwood fascinated me with the way her thinking and actions gradually became more and more bizarre. It sort of sneaks up on the reader.--Let's put it this way, I read it in 3 days which for me lately, means it was a page turner. Looking for a good read--this is a good bet. ...more info
  • A timeless classic with language that will bring you on the journey slipping into a deep depression!
    Sylvia Plath's, The Bell Jar, is a novel that will take you into the world of Esther Greenwood. A young girl clinging to straws trying to find her place in the world. The language that Plath uses is simple yet vivid, taking you into the mind of a depressed girl. From beginning to end you follow the journey from the unknown purpose in life into something much deeper and much more dark.

    The sentences start as if in the mind of a sane person and begin to subtly change into the mind of someone with a darkness setting in and leaving you with the eerie feeling that something is happening...but you aren't quite sure what.

    The vivid language stays with you and the characters that move in and out of Esther's life have a lasting effect on the reader, just as they have had on her.

    The beginning of the novel starts "It was a queer and sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York." This simple sentence thrusts you into Esther's life and you will not forget the journey of a young girl sitting in the bell jar trying to escape....more info
  • unerringly evocative, painfully human...
    the first few pages of Bell Jar were deceptively banal. though it still made for a relatively interesting read, I initially really didn't feel engaged with the story of Esther. but then the pace picks up as Plath unfolds the subtle but swift undoing that encroaches on the protagonist's consciousness. in no time at all, i found haunting affinity with some of what Esther went through--those times when everything seems to be on a standstill and yet knowing that the world is passing swiftly by without you; times when you feel like almost everything around you is falling apart or is against you, and then feel at turns frustrated, frightened, and furious that the people you hope empathized with you instead misunderstand you.

    the winning touch on this novel is that the author did not attempt to make Esther's condition clinical or overly dramatic--what transpired rather is an inherently human experience that centered solely on the young woman's perspective that made it more felt to the reader, with touches of merciless lucidity and benevolent numbness.

    the seemingly harmless events that led to Esther's "breakdown" may be the very same things that have occured to countless people. now whether the question is if these events triggered her cognitive distortion or if Esther's genes were just waiting on the awning for the right time to manifest themselves is probably eclipsed by the more salient issue of how different humans respond and interpret their world around them. and this is where the central themes of Plath's novel emerge: the societal pressures that pervade in the 1950's, the psychological belief that a female seeks security and material wealth from a male while the latter aims to propagate his genes, the expectations on women regarding virginity, employment, overall savoir-faire, and so on. for Esther to find herself at first sensible and even comfortably adept in her surroundings, but on the next breath fumbling, insecure, and inevitably perplexed with the words, images, and people around her makes it understandable to the reader as to why Esther was driven to her breaking point.

    this is a very insightful novel in many levels. slyly pulls you in and makes you aware of forces that you take for granted and you let dictate your life. its not just about the searing disappointments and hurts that fester one's soul, it's also about letting go and allowing oneself to simply become human, with all its imperfections. ...more info
  • Dark passage
    I read this strange but powerful little book many years ago--after going through a very rough time in my late adolescence. I don't know what it is about this book, but something opened up for me that I am not sure I can describe. It seems the author here, though really not of my generation, is hitting upon something universal--like a shedding of old skin that, somehow, life requires if we are to become full adults.

    Recently, I re-read this again. And the emotions are so real, so eerie, and altogether somehow true. Many a time, I prefer more balance and humor in the books I read, but this one is special. It has an honesty about how life can be when going through the tunnels that lead to adulthood.

    Recommend to all readers, and the younger generation of today, especially. ...more info
  • Authentic, gripping read that will pull you into the mind of someone who is depressed
    This is a masterpiece, well written, extremely well organized contemporary style book. It is often compared to The Catcher in the Rye, while I think that the angst in this book isn't so apparent.

    For anyone who has suffered through a mental disorder or knows someone else who has, this is a must read as it is very articulate in how it describes the process of slipping into depression....more info
  • A novel for the Female Salingers of the world
    Sylvia Plath's story--both in real life, and in this work of "fiction"--is undeniably sad. I purchased this book after, by chance, catching the last 15 minutes of the movie Sylvia on tele (which piqued my interest in her story). I instantly fell in love with the mood of this book. Sylvia's style as an author is undeniable.

    I am tempted to compare the main character of this story (which is, in fact, a not-so-"fictionalized" autobiographical account of Sylvia's entry into young adulthood)to J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield (of The Catcher in the Rye, for those not familiar). However, that might be a bit oversimplistic. When you consider the social climate and its implications for women in the era of this book, you may find it all the more compelling that the main character behaves as she does. I won't give too much away, but I will say that Plath does a remarkable job of creating a character for whom her readers will likely experience many conflicting impressions and feelings.

    You will likely walk away from this book feeling frustrated and curious. Go with it! I highly recommend Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness: A Biography as subsequent reading. Why? Because only after reading Sylvia's biography can you realize how very much of 'The Bell Jar' was based in reality--and that, in turn, will solidify whatever feelings it evoked in you. I found myself turning back to 'The Bell Jar' constantly just to note the similarities as I read that biography. At the end of both, I cannot deny that although Sylvia's life and story was very different than my own (and that, as a person, she was someone I probably would not have felt *warm and fuzzy* toward in 'real life'), I walked away from both books feeling somehow sorrowfully connected to her and her tragic life--which undoubtedly ended much too soon. ...more info
  • One of the classics in modern literature
    I first read this book way back when, when I was a teenager. I absolutely loved it then, and it really holds up as a classic. Yes, it's a feminist novel, and yes, it's angsty, but it's also well-written, moving, and realistic. Plath was one of a kind, and the world is just a little colder without her in it....more info