Book Reviews

The Bell Jar

‘I was supposed to be having the time of my life’

Sylivia Plath

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I was first introduced to Sylvia Plath throughout my Sixth Form English Language studies. I studied the poem ‘Daddy’ and I was mesmerised by her writing style. Fast forward a few weeks and I had learnt everything there was to know about her, from her turbulent life to the tragic end that it took. I have watched every film there is to watch on Plath and read pretty much all her poetry, yet the one thing I was yet to read was her semi-autobiographical book The Bell Jar.

In the strange period that has been COVID-19 lockdown I decided to purchase the book and enjoy getting to know Plath all over again.

To be honest, the book wasn’t what I was expecting. In my opinion the writing style is unique for Plath as she writes not only to those who know her past work but also to those who perhaps have picked up the book to try something new.

The plot is filled with insight into Plath’s inner thoughts and battles with mental health, but the depth of these insights can be easily missed if no prior knowledge of her life is attained before reading.

Plath focuses on a range of themes including isolation and the loneliness a single person can feel, despite who they are surrounded by. Throughout the book, many characters are mentioned yet they all seem to be forgotten very quickly, as though the company is irrelevant to the protagonist Esther Greenwood..

Perhaps my favourite theme The Bell jar focuses on is its depiction of Women in Society and how the expectations at the time focused on marriage and children. Esther gradually becomes to resent these concepts as the novel progresses, similar to how Plath came to resent many expected norms throughout her life.

For its time of publication (1963), The Bell Jar was incredibly progressive, as was its focus on female sexuality. I have always felt Plath pushes the boundaries of what is commonly accepted as normal and this book is no different to that. Plath portrays Esther as pushing away materialism and marriage and placing emphasis on her slowly demising mental health in a piece of literature that is written fluently, eloquently and with utter class.

I believe that The Bell Jar will continue to resonate with both man and women throughout time due to its persistent representation of problems and faults with human nature.

I would recommend this book to anyone, however I personally believe a previous understanding of Plath’s life should be established if you want to enjoy this book to it’s full potential.
Amy Wilcock
CEO & Founder - CLMB
The Bell Jar

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