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The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Faber & Faber

Published : 2005

Copyright : Sylvia Plath 1963, 2005

ISBN-10 : PB 0-571-22616-7
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-571-22616-0

Publisher's Write-Up

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things - grades, boyfriend, looks, career - and the other against remorseless mental illness.

When she wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women's aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath's own life and has become a modern classic. Renowned for its intensity and outstandingly vivid prose, it broke existing boundaries between fiction and reality and helped to make Plath an enduring feminist icon. It was published under a pseudonym a few weeks before the author's suicide. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and a razor sharp portrait of 1950s society and has sold millions of copies worldwide.

About the Author:
Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

'It is a fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems. The world in which the events of the novel take place is a world bounded by the Cold War on one side and the sexual war on the other… This novel is not political nor historical in any narrow sense, but in looking at the madness of the world and the world of madness it forces us to consider the great question posed by all truly realistic fiction: What is reality and how can it be confronted? Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing.'

New York Times Book Review
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Reader Reviews

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Review by Annett Grosser-Rogoff (311013) Rating (7/10)

Review by Annett Grosser-Rogoff
Rating 7/10
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is a coming of age story set in the early 50s centring on Esther Greenwood. She is an intelligent, young college student who works for a fashion magazine in New York for a short summer and battles her way through the fusty world of 1953. To start with it seems like Esther is on the way to achieve something great and marvellous in her life. But she is not as settled and strong as she appears to be. Esther starts to slowly slide into an emotional disorder and it is very difficult for the reader to understand at what point exactly she turns as the change is so subtle. She struggles with the conventional expectations towards woman, like the immense focus on chastity and protests in a very soft way which isn’t really be taken serious by the outside world, but breaks her inside.

Plath’s ability to dive into the mind of Esther Greenwood is impressive. She manages to take the reader with her on this twisted journey and makes him or her wonder how it would be like to lose your mind. Would one notice or is it such a slow process that someone from the outside has to bring you back from the edge before it’s too late and you make that last step into darkness? This might sound like heavy reading, but with a slim 264 pages it is not. The novel is just long enough to take the reader on a strange, but exciting journey without being exhaustive.
Annett Grosser-Rogoff (31st October 2013)

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