Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

This novel has been on my TBR list for a long time. My reluctance to pick it up was based on a vague belief that it was depressing, and that lonely young women, full of depression, rejection, and low self-esteem saw it as some sort of bible. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, I am still glad I waited until now to read it. I doubt I could have appreciated it then as much as I do now.

Sylvia Plath was a troubled woman, and, as this autobiographical novel shows, she went through hell to recover her grip on reality, only to lose it under the pressure of writing, teaching, marriage, childbirth, and several physical problems.

The biographical sketch at the end of my edition was particularly enlightening. It pointed out the main parallels between Sylvia’s life and that of Esther Greenwood, heroine of The Bell Jar. The editor also included a selection of drawings by Plath.

I recently watched Sylvia, the Gwyneth Paltrow bio-pic, and I heard her voice narrating the novel. The writing floated, melted, and flowed dreamlike; the change in the style as Esther descends toward her breakdown is chilling and gripping. I could hardly put this down as I got closer and closer to the climax. The most chilling line, because I knew how the story would really end, was on page 241 – only three pages from the end: “How did I know that someday – at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere – the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”

A true psychological thriller. Five stars

--Chiron, 2/18/08

1 comment:

Bibliolatrist said...

You've won my "You Make My Day" award. Congrats!