Monday, July 23, 2012

Book Report Monday: The Bell Jar

Title: The Bell Jar

Author: Sylvia Plath

Synopsis: "The Bell Jar" chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under--maybe for the last time.

Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.

Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made "The Bell Jar" a haunting American classic.

(from Goodreads)

Favorite Lines: "I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print the way you crawl through a fence."

"The day I went into physics class it was death."

"I waited, as if the sea could make my decision for me."

My Review: I always struggle with what to say about popular and classic novels. The majority of my blog readers are fellow writers and there's a good chance at least half of you have read them. So, can I say anything that you haven't already heard or figured out yourself? Probably not.

I enjoyed The Bell Jar despite the obvious depressing theme. The novel's tone seemed to me to be darkly comic at least at times. I laughed, maybe I shouldn't have. I wanted to quote half the book as my favorite lines. Even cutting down to three was difficult. When Esther explains how she overcame her fear of eating with the wrong utensils, she describes a meal shared with a poet who disregarded the silverware with confident certainty. "The poet made eating salad with your fingers seem to be the only natural and sensible thing to do." After which she decided she'd eat with whichever fork she wanted and as long as she did so intentionally it wouldn't matter if it was wrong by the rules of etiquette.

Esther's mental deterioration came off as refreshing at least in its honesty and lack of melodrama. Knowing the novel is semi-autobiographical, that makes sense. Plath isn't guessing about Esther's plight, since it is her own. Also unsurprising is how The Bell Jar reminded me of Girl, Interrupted. I never read the memoir but I saw the movie, which is based on a woman's time in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960's. There are a lot of parallels. The reaction to electric shock therapy, the final resignation to accept help and try to get well, and both stories show the main character visiting a "cured" former patient.

Next Week: Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


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