Wednesday, 28 October 2009
the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
DATE PUBLISHED: 1963 DATE READ: October 2009 NOTES: This is a sympathetic and moving story of a young girl’s disintegration into depression and mental illness. The writing is beautifully precise and lucid as we are taken into the mind of Esther Greenwood as she tentatively tries to move to adulthood. Much of the language is vivid. In referring to a German book she says “…the very sight of those dense, black, barbed-wire letters made my mind shut like a clam.” Although quite believable, it is not especially depressing – much of the writing is quite funny as Esther views the world in a quirky way. She finds many of the customs in New York confusing. For example she always seems to get tipping wrong – and we can all sympathise with her there! In spite of being a straight A student she has continual feelings of inadequacy and lists all the things she can’t do while dismissing her own talents. As her breakdown occurs we are taken into the world of 1960s mental health treatment – a very uncomfortable experience even for a private patient. She perceptively compares her electric shock treatment with the execution of the Rosenbergs. How sad that this is the only novel by Sylvia Plath – what a loss to literature.