Rating: 4 / 5
THE BELL JAR by Sylvia Plath is a book that has been on my TBR for a long time. I pulled it out to read during Mental Health Month in May, but didn’t get to it, so was happy to be able to finally give it a read for the mental health prompt on the #RWM19 bingo board. It also satisfies my related to a TV series you loved prompt for the Around The Year in 52 Books 2019 challenge as Sylvia Plath is mentioned in the Gilmore Girls!
Set in the 1950s, THE BELL JAR is the story of Esther Greenwood, an aspiring writer and college student for whom life seems to be going well. She has a coveted internship for a fashion magazine in New York. While things seem to be going well, Esther is struggling with her mental health. She begins to isolate, spending a lot of time in bed. She begins to contemplate ways to kill herself and eventually she attempts suicide.
As an author better known for her poetry, Sylvia Plath’s language brings a lot of poetic language to her prose in this book. She does well at drawing a picture of what life was like for a woman like Esther who had big ambitions, but lived in a society that expected her to find a husband and settle down.
In the book Esther contemplates writing a novel with a heroine who is her, but in disguise. Knowing that THE BELL JAR is at least partially based on Sylvia Plath’s own life and her own struggles with mental health gives the book an extra sense of sadness. As someone who works in the realm of mental health services, the descriptions of mental health treatment in the 50s was very interesting (and very scary!).
This isn’t a plot heavy book or what I would call a page-turner, but I think it gives a very important view into the mind of someone struggling with depression and I’m glad I finally read it!