Sunday, February 13

Book Review: The Bell Jar

Title: The Bell Jar

Author: Sylvia Plath

Pages: 234

Summary: A student from Boston wins a guest editorship on a national magazine, and finds a new world at her feet. Her New York life is crowded with possibilities, so the choice of future is overwhelming. She is faced with the perennial problems of morality, behaviour and identity.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Overall the book was okay. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but the overall affect of the story made it worth reading it in the end.
The writing was exception. Sylvia Plath has a very distinct voice that takes hold of the reader. I may not have been able to connect with the protagonist, which was part of the reason why I didn’t like the book that much, but the author does make the reader pay close attention to what she has to say. I also really enjoyed the author’s examination on the treatment of people who have mental illness during this time and how they were perceived by others. This was exceptionally well done. She really pulls the reader in and forces them to see just how horrible it was for anyone with a mental illness when they were being “treated.” I really enjoyed this aspect of the book, and I wish it was focused on more than it was.

What I didn’t like was that I felt that the first part of the book moved slowly, the build up to the “breakdown,” took to long to come. I didn’t care much about her life in New York. I also found that I didn’t enjoy the man character all to much, nor could I connect to her or her dealings with depression. It made it hard to fully understand her, when I was unable to actually connect to the character.

Overall I think if you look at the book as an examination of how people, were treated who had a mental illness, the book a great read and has some strong points in that regard. As for a book that examines the individual character’s plight and struggle with depression, I don’t think it is as strong as it could have been.

Would I recommend it to read: It’s not my favourite book out there, but I still think I would recommend this book to read. I think it makes a very important stance on depression and how it was dealt with back then, and the conditions and treatments people went through because they were mentally ill. I think this book shows that incredibly well, so it’s worth reading in this regard to help get the message out.

What to read next: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood. I think there are some good parallels between the two protagonists from both books. The Hours


  1. I will admit to never having read Sylvia Plath but this is a book that has always appealed to me. I don;t think that I expect to fall in love with it because of its content, but I do expect to admire her writing and her message

  2. This is one of those books I think everyone wants to read but somehow never gets around to reading. Kudos to you, though!

  3. I read this one a few years back and really liked it. But I expect my experience differed from yours as I didn't mind the main character at all and really liked how the book mirrored the author's own life. I've been wanting to read some of this author's poetry but have never given it a try.

  4. I haven't read this book, but have been hearing about it for years. I actually think that the mental illness angle would fascinate me and am going to have to check this one out. It sounds like it's got a really interesting viewpoint. Great review, Jules!

  5. Becky - I think you're right there. Her writing is well done - I think a lot of readers come out of reading the book, admiring her writing.

    Aatri - It does seem like that huh? I hope people read the book because I think it's a good book overall, but I hope people don't read the book because they feel some sort of obligation to read it.

    Samantha - I don't know much behind the author's life, but knowing how much it mirrored her own life is interesting to me. Gives me a new out look on the book. I don't think it changes my rating of the book, but I think I can take something a little more from the book now. Thanks for sharing that!

    Zibilee - The mental illness angel is what caused me to pick up the book. It was worth it, it does do a good job at focusing on that.

  6. I appreciate this review: the good, the bad, the ugly. This one is on my short list of to-reads, so I'm glad to hear someone speak honestly. Thanks!

  7. Kalanna - Glad you enjoyed the review.

  8. I read The Bell Jar last year and it wasn't really what I was expecting either. I actually preferred the earlier part of the book though, I think, so it's interesting to read a review from somebody with the opposite point of view.