This week I’ll be reviewing a classic novel. It’s actually one of my favorite books of all time, and I happened to reread it last year during my failed attempt to complete the 50 book challenge.
Image courtesy of stephanieoakesbooks.com.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I first read The Bell Jar during my senior year of college. I’m honestly not sure why I never got around to reading it before then, but I think it was probably a good thing that I read it at that time. As I’ve mentioned before, I was going through a very dark time in my life that year. This continued on through the next year and a half or so. This is not to say that I don’t still struggle with many of the same issues, because I do. I probably always will. But I remember (and refer to) that period of time as my “dark period.”
I’m sure most people know the general premise of The Bell Jar, but just in case … It’s basically a semi-autobiographical work of fiction (yes, I realize how that sounds but it makes perfect sense if you read Sylvia Plath’s unabridged journals) centering on a college student named Esther Greenwood and the events that lead to her breakdown, attempted suicide(s), and eventual lockup in a psychiatric facility.
The most haunting thing about this book is that so many of Esther’s thoughts and feelings on certain things are my own. I wondered before I started rereading this whether or not it would have the same effect it initially had, considering I’m in a much different place in my life. It did. In fact, I would almost say I had a stronger reaction when I read it again last year. I’d say this is probably due to the fact that I saw myself as I once was, compared that version of myself with the person I currently am, and realized the sad fact that not that much has really changed.
Maybe it’s not that sad … I don’t know. I think I’m probably a little stronger, a little smarter. I’m definitely not as self-destructive as I once was. But, deep down, I’m still much the same. I guess I will always be this person … And maybe that’s okay.
I think The Bell Jar is an important book, and I really feel that any person (woman or man) who has dealt with dealt with depression in their lives (be it themselves or a loved one) would benefit from reading it. It may not have a profound effect on everyone who reads it, and many will not feel as though Esther is an image of themselves … Perhaps some would even see her as “bratty” or “whiny.” Regardless, the descent into a despair that cannot be shaken is something those dealing with depression will identify with, and this novel may allow loved ones a glimpse into what they’re going through.
The Bell Jar is worthy of FIVE STARS. If nothing else, it warrants this rating because of the way it got into my very core during my initial reading and still had the same effect when I reread it 6 years later.