The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Book - 1996 | 25th anniversary ed.
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Jun 08, 2019

I was expecting a kind of raw confessional outpouring, but this book was more artful in its narration and reveals Plath as a very talented observer and prose writer. Even her refusal to allow Esther Greenwood to appear "nice" in any way is a deliberate artistic choice. But I wondered what was the point at the end. The story didn't seem to have any shape other than a record of a mental health breakdown and (ambiguous) recovery.

May 18, 2019

The Bell Jar is a novel by the famous poet, Sylvia Plath, but originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The story is based on Plath’s personal experiences following the character Esther Greenwood who is an aspiring writer, who is uncertain in her place in the world. Esther’s mental health slowly deteriorates over the course of the book leaving her neurotic and suicidal, until one day her mental plague is unbearable and she makes an almost tragic action leaving her hospitalized. I would recommend this book because Plath is an extremely intelligent writer and tells her story beautifully. @GoosReviews of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

Apr 05, 2018

maybe I'm politicizing her story too much but it seems to me, seeing this as not only about her personal struggle with sanity/survival but also with the crippling effect of the socially restrictions women lived/live under may have been her point.

Oct 24, 2017

I read The Bell Jar as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge, in the category of a book written by an author using a pseudonym. There is no real story. I feel like I do not know anything about Ester, who is the main character.

Aug 28, 2017

interesting and engaging read!

Apr 15, 2017

Eight months lapsed from the moment that I picked up this book until I finished its last line. I'm not going to lie – early portions of this novel are not easy to process with its painstakingly redundant and seemingly irrelevant observations that compromise the pace of the story, diluting its dramatic intensity. However, as soon as one passes the wall-hitting phase, everything comes to life and a vivid reality is set into motion by the shear force of Plath's ingenious manipulation of the English language.

As the protagonist, Esther Greenwood, slowly descends into madness, she ascends spiritually, for madness has afforded her detachment and clairvoyance to look at the world from a third-person perspective. This novel offers a refreshing and poignant view on mental struggles and the inherent absurdity of conformity vs. choice.

Oct 31, 2016

A novel full of brilliance, lesson, and ambition.
I loved it. The book is contained of deep and rather sad meanings. It is a book of pure depression.
A story of hard work and determination which the character accomplishes as she comes from nothing and makes success of that... only to find that in particular that success cannot motivate or fulfill a deep emptiness that lies in her. That emptiness which her depression constantly suffocates her and how in that era the contrast between dealing with mental illness between now is of great deal of change. An unsettling, haunting yet intriguing novel. Depression in this novel is metaphorically related as a Bell Jar covering Esther, alienating her from reality and distorting her perception of life. She also says "stewing in my own sour air" under the jar meaning she is trapped in her depressive thoughts. Definitely a must read novel.

ArapahoeAndrew Aug 29, 2016

Plath weaves a haunting descent and experience with depression into a beautifully descriptive setting and plot.

Jul 05, 2016

I find Esther's descent into insanity a little rushed or hasty.

Jun 16, 2016

We go to a time and place where understanding of mental illness was less understood and certainly treated differently. Social mores concerning sexuality and marriage were strict. Plath's character, Esther, shared her "living under the bell jar." She fought mental imbalance and walked the thin line of staying alive and well vs. the obsession with putting an end to her life.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 02, 2016

Esther Greenwood is a wonderful protagonist and the insight into Plath's life is equally fascinating and haunting. It's unfortunate that she lived such a short life.

Apr 27, 2016

I truly loved this book. It shows how insanity can go unnoticed by one and how getting better can also go unnoticed. I've heard that this was depressing (I've read worse) but I really like it anyways. A true classic.

Sep 03, 2015

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. Published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas shortly before the author’s suicide, this semi-autobiographical work has made Plath a literary icon as well as a feminist icon.
Esther Greenwood, the protagonist in this novel, has just won an internship at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Along with a dozen other girls her age, she must endure photoshoots, banquets, and the constant pressure put on her by her boss Jay Cee. Unlike the other girls, she also must deal with a hospitalized college boyfriend, her doubting mother, a struggling writing career, and trying to deal with a mental breakdown.
During this shockingly honest novel, the author shows the main characters rapid downfall into the world. Plath also touches on many controversial topics in this novel such as purity, suicide and society.
In my opinion, the reason this book resonated with me so greatly was because of how real Esther’s character is. This could partially be because the main character and her struggles are greatly based on Sylvia Plath’s own life. In fact, often times while reading this book, it seemed like the lines between Esther’s fictional world and Sylvia’s real one were blurred perfectly, which kept me thinking long after I had finished the book. The novel is raw, painfully honest, heartbreaking, and brought together by Plath’s undeniable intelligence.
I feel like this book is a very important read for all feminists, and also anyone who wants to read a book that leaves you hauntingly satisfied. All in all, it is a book that I can read over and over again; because every time I read it, I understand it a little bit more and relate to Esther and Sylvia even stronger than before.

May 12, 2015

Gut wrenching story of depression during a period when medicine and society were still catching up with it. Plath's composition of a girl, interrupted is on point and even unapologetically raw. Truly essential reading.

triptophan Jan 25, 2015

Read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and weep at Esther Greenwood's pain. It will break your heart.

Aug 17, 2014


That might actually be the only thing I need to say. Okay, maybe not.

This was a stunning book that managed to convey the emotion of depression in such a real way. I cannot say that I understood what Esther was going through or that I even managed much empathy but I feel like I've come away with more understanding.

LibraryJean Mar 08, 2014

This is a must-read classic. I had expected it to be utterly depressing, because of Plath's circumstances of death, but I found it much more a story of a young woman trying to find her place in the world.

Dec 26, 2013

Loved this book! Such good writing and very intense. This book is semi-autobiographical and parallels can be drawn to the author's life.

KRockstar10 Nov 22, 2013

Good, not great. Very easy to read, and I liked how Esther's descent into depression (the book jacket calls it madness, but I disagree) happens in a way that is subtle, yet if you stand back you can see it coming. Interesting, but it's missing something I can't quite put my finger on.

Nov 05, 2013

Ester in New York, away from home, smart and has a promising future. But the inner workings of her mind sometimes create boundaries for her potential. Loved the writing of inner dialogue to herself, though as the character I found not very relateable as she kept impoding and putting up guards. Found history of author interesting.

Apr 28, 2013

Dark, beautiful, and strikingly real.

KRockstar10 Apr 10, 2013

Good, not great. Very easy to read, and I liked how Esther's descent into depression (the book jacket calls it madness, but I disagree) happens in a way that is subtle, yet if you stand back you can see it coming. Interesting, but it's missing something I can't quite put my finger on.

Jan 08, 2012

I devoured this book in a day, but am not sure if I thought it was really a good book, or am I merely fascinated by Sylvia Plath herself? The book is a loosely veiled account of her life as her father dies when she is a young girl; she wins a scholarship to college and faces the demands of retaining the scholarship; wins a contest as guest editor at a fashion magazine in New York; and then returns home, falls into a depression and tries unsuccessfully to commit suicide. (Plath does finally succeed when she is 30 years of age, just after publication of the book in Great Britain.)

squarewheels Dec 12, 2011

Dark and amazing. A classic must-read.

art1130 Dec 09, 2011

The Bell Jar is simply put the most brilliant masterpiece written by the best female poet of the twenieth centruy.

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