The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath | Book Review

Genre: classics, feminism

Pages: 230

Synopsis

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.


The Bell Jar
, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and has become a modern classic. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and a razor sharp portrait of 1950s society and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four stars

I definitely get why this is a classic. I get how important it is as a semi-authobiographical story about being a woman in 1950s New York. Especially as she deals with being hospitalized for mental illness, with depression and suicidal thoughts. It’s a fantastic insight into Sylvia’s point of view. I also get why when white feminism is brought up, Sylvia Plath readers are an often used example, as there’s quite the 1950s white college woman’s racist views and not seeing longer than her own situation in here as well.

Reading it with modern eyes, I didn’t like the first half of the story. It was quite boring, seeing her trying to fit into this New York society, or how she didn’t fit in. But I realized the importance later on, it shows how her depression took hold of her. It’s a major contrast between the person she used to be, or could become, up against who she was while institutionalized. The whole book is a fascinating look into a particular situation, especially as the main character (and Sylvia) is so perceptive.

I would recommend it, but you’ve got to continue reading until the hospitalization happens to get something out of it. I’m glad I read it at this point in my life and not earlier. It required a certain patience, maybe not for the writing which flows great, but for the point of view and voice it’s written with. There’s these debates about whether to read Sylvia Plath’s work with her life in mind always or to not, but it’s not possible for me to read this without seeing it as semi-authobiographical. u also got to remember you’re reading the work of a deeply conflicted person who is going to have a more flawed perception than the average. As someone who deals with mental issues, even then I can’t understand the complete situation Sylvia Plath was in. She’s got brilliance in describing certain things and feelings, but you also got to remember you’re reading the work of a deeply conflicted person who is going to have a more flawed perception than the average. I think I disagree more about how this book is used as a classic than anything else.

Feelings while reading this book: I did cry at points. Mental health treatment was as terrifying as I expected in the 1950s. I really hated Bobby from the moment he was introduced. Worried about how relatable a Sylvia Plath novel was to me.

Favourite moment:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Spring TBR!

I didn’t think I would create a TBR because who knows when I’d get time to read because of university. And then it all went to hell and I need more structure in my life so here we gooo – a Spring TBR it is.

  • By grand central station I sat down and wept by Elizabeth Smart
  • The stranger by Albert Camus
  • All the lonely people by David Owen
  • The picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • On earth we’re briefly gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
  • Permanent record by Edward Snowden
  • To the lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Notes from underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The incendiaries by R. O. Kwon
  • Red, white and royal blue by Casey McQuiston
  • The serpent king by Jeff Zentner
  • Catch and kill by Ronan Farrow
  • So far so good by Ursula Le Guin
  • Hermosa and Tesoro by Yesika Salgado
  • The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

Short Reviews: DNF (magical realism, queer, classics)

Some books I stopped reading, but still want to share my thoughts about.

1984 by George Orwell: I joined my first book club and was so excited, got through 40% of this book, and wasn’t able to go dicuss it. I probably will give it another try, someday. I’ve heard the ending described as amazing, but as for now I feel like I’ve already read so many books that has taken inspiration from this one (both for worse and better) to the point where nothing in it feels revolutionary or intriguing to me, even though it clearly was for its time.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: I had hope for this latina bisexual main character witch and her story. But then, in the very beginning, she meets the mysterious guy and obvious future love interest, and it unravels from there. It just felt badly written. And then the mc fucks up and has to save her family and I got flashback to Percy Jackson going to the underworld, but without knowing any of the characters enough to care what happened to them. I got 40% through (it’s starting to become a cursed percentage).

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: here’s another queer book (with trans main character) that I wanted to love. I’ve given this book a couple tries. It seems that McLemore’s writing is just not for me. It’s flowery magical realism, with a lot of imagination and interesting aspects. Which is absolutely something I love, but not in this case. I would whole-heartedly suggest to give it a try and see for yourself!

Yellow Cover | Friday Face Off

This is a weekly thing created by Books by Proxy, but currently run by Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme: “I wandered lonely as a cloud” – a cover that is predominantly yellow

My pick: The Master and Margarita (a classic I have yet to read) by Mikhail Bulgakov

Kindle 50th anniversary edition (2016) Penguin Books | Paperback (2004) by Vintage Classics

Paperback (1995) by Grove Press | Paperback (2007) by Penguin Books | Portuguese Paperback (2010) by Alfaguara

Paperback (2012) by Alma Books | Paperback (2011) by Wordsworth Editions

Turkish paperback (2018) by Türkiye İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları | Italian paperback (2014) by Feltrinelli

My pick

There’s soooo many editions of this book, I selected the funny and devilish cat covers on purpose. But also, as someone who’s not read the book yet, there’s way too many devil cat options. This Penguin classic option just made me laugh out loud with the surrealness.

Amazon UK’s 100 Books To Read In A Lifetime Tag

I first saw Nikki at booksandlemonsquash do this tag and it looked fun!
 

Rules:

1. Include a link back to Amazon’s official 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime 
2. Tag Perfectly Tolerable, the creator of this meme
3. Tag the person who nominated you (none, but first saw booksandlemonsquash do it!)
4. Copy the list of books and indicate which titles you have read.
5. Tally up your total.
6. Comment on the post you were tagged in and share your total count.
7. Tag five new people and comment on one of their posts to let them know.

 

Here’s the list:

1984 George Orwell

A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking

A Fine Balance Rohinton Mistry

A Game of Thrones George R R Martin

A History of the World in 100 Objects Neil MacGregor

All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque

American Gods Neil Gaiman

American Psycho Bret Easton Ellis

Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer

Atonement Ian McKewan

Bad Science Ben Goldacre

Birdsong Sebastian Faulks

Brideshead Revisted Evelyn Waugh

Bridget Jones’s Diary Helen Fielding

Brighton Rock Graham Greene

Casino Royale Ian Fleming

Catch 22 Joseph Hellier

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl

Cider with Rosie Laurie Lee

Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevesky

Dissolution C J Sansom

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Philip K. Dick

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Hunter S. Thompson

Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Goodnight Mister Tom Michelle Magorian

Great Expectations Charles Dickens

Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone J K Rowling

High Fidelity Nick Hornby

In Cold Blood Truman Capote

Knots and Crosses Ian Rankin

Last Orders Graham Swift

Little Women Louise May Alcott

Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

London Fields Martin Amis

London: The Biography Peter Akroyd

Long Walk to Freedom Nelson Mandela

Lord of the Flies William Golding

Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie

My Man Jeeves P G Woodhouse

Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro

Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami

Notes From A Small Island Bill Bryson

Noughts and Crosses Malorie Blackman

One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Jeanette Winterson

Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier

Stormbreaker Anthony Horowitz

Tess of the d’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy

The Book Thief Markus Zusak

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

The Colour of Magic Terry Pratchett

The Commitments Roddy Doyle

The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank

The Enchanted Wood Enid Blyton

The English Patient Michael Ondaatje

The Fellowship of the Ring J R R Tolkien

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson

The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck

The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Gruffalo Julia Donaldson

The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood

The Hare with Amber Eyes Edmund de Waal

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

The Hound of the Baskervilles Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat Oliver Sacks

The Mill on the Floss George Eliot

The Old Man and the Sea Ernest Hemingway

The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde

The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

The Road Cormac McCarthy

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Sue Townsend

The Secret History Donna Tartt

The Selfish Gene Richard Dawkins

The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes

The Stand Stephen King

The Story of Tracy Beaker Jacqueline Wilson

The Tale of Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter

The Tiger Who Came to Tea Judith Kerr

The Time Machine H G Wells

The Worst Witch Jill Murphy

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy John Le Carré

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf

The Wasp Factory Iain Banks

Trainspotting Irvine Welsh

Venice Jan Morris

Watchmen Alan Moore

Watership Down Richard Adams

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Helen Oxenbury

White Teeth Zadie Smith

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Jung Chang

Winnie the Pooh A A Milne

Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë

 

I have read 12/100 books. That’s not a lot, but it could’ve been worse. I have to admit I haven’t read all of Game of Thrones, probably won’t for a while, or Hitchhikers to the Galaxy, which I want to continue soon. First obligatory excuse is that I’m not american or english, but honestly I haven’t read enough norwegian classics either. I definitely want to read more books on this list, along with classics in my own language. I don’t think anyone need to read classics, but the books are well-known for reasons and I’ve found several hits as well as misses among them.

Books already on my TBR: A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Philip K. Dick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg Larsson, The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood and The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini

Books I’ll add to my TBR: Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen, The Colour of Magic Terry Pratchett, The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald, To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf

 

If you want to do it you’re free to tag me! ❤ I’m curious how many classics book bloggers have read.