Books · Feminism

Book review: The Bell Jar

This has been sitting on my shelf for very nearly a year because I am a Bad Person. A bad person with a reading list longer than I am tall, to be fair, but still, I take all the blame here. I should have read it much sooner. It was a gift from a brilliant friend who obviously knows me very well.

 

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

 

It’s a seriously powerful book. I’m sure that comes as a surprise to no one but really, it hit me hard. While I was reading the first half people kept asking me “isn’t it kind of depressing” and I was saying, “no?” Because the first half isn’t depressing, not really. The depression creeps up on the protagonist quite slowly until it envelops every aspect of her life and then, only in retrospect, does the first half suddenly seem so bleak.

It’s semi-autobiographical and Plath originally published it under a pseudonym. Not long afterwards she committed suicide. It’s clear when reading that her protagonists decent into depression likely mirrored her own. Now normally I love sad books but when it’s almost a true story about the author things are a bit different. I feel like I need to take some time to recover from it.

That all makes it sound awful. It’s not. It’s a wonderful, incredible book and it’s even funny at times. To think someone wrote it whilst struggling with severe depression is amazing. I actually think everyone should read it. Mental illness still carries such a stigma today and this is a fantastic insight into what it’s like to experience depression. It can’t hurt to gain a little more understanding of it.

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10 thoughts on “Book review: The Bell Jar

  1. I haven’t read it yet. In college, I thought about it but I knew what it was about and I was dealing with my own stuff and just couldn’t take on Plath’s problems on top of my own.
    I have a shelf of books that I haven’t read. Last week, I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn although I’ve owned it for years. I think whenever you read a book, that’s the right time.

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    1. What did you think of Huck Finn? I read it as a kid and enjoyed it but it might be time for a re-read. I definitely agree that if you’re going to make it through a book then that’s the right time for reading it. If you don’t it’s probably not right for you yet.

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      1. I loved it! Huck Finn was funny on several levels. I think it was blatantly funny – the kind of comedy that appeals to young readers – but it was also subtly funny and clever – the kind of writing I know I could only have appreciated as a well read adult.
        Rereading books from my childhood often makes me feel that way. A well written children’s book should have that appeal, I think. Although when I was reading Huck Finn, I wondered why anyone ever thought it was a children’s book. I don’t think YA was a genre back in the 1850s. 😀

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      2. Right but Huck and Tom aren’t in typical situations that children face, especially not children in our time. In that case, it becomes kind of fantasy because it’s probably every kids dream at some point to run away and be in charge of their own destiny.

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