Mar 10, 2010

The Bell Jar (with a twist)

Hi readers! The lovely Lisa and I read The Bell Jar at the same time so we thought it would be fun to blog swap for our reviews. Below is what Lisa thought of the book, and my review is on her blog today as well. Welcome Lisa!

I recently finished The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It's been on my TBR (to-be-read) list for quite awhile. It is a haunting book which captured me right from the start. In the book, the author chronicles the mental breakdown of the main character, Esther Greenwood.

When we meet Esther, she is living in New York City and is interning at a top womens' magazine. It's the chance of a lifetime, but it's not turning out how Esther had envisioned it. She turns inward and starts to closely examing herself and her potential in life. She begins to really question herself; and so begins her downward spiral into depression.

So what is the significance of the title? I remember using the bell jar during science experiments in high school. One of the most common experiments is to hook a hose up to the bell jar to extract the air. Then, if you place something that makes noise (such as an alarm clock) in the bell jar, as the air is sucked out of the jar, you can no longer hear the alarm beeping.

I think this is how a depressed person must feel - they feel as if the air has been sucked out of their world. As Esther says, "(If I had been given) a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn't have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I say -  on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok - I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air (p. 185)."

This book is somewhat autobiographical as the author, Sylvia Plath, ends up taking her lie at the young age of 31. Plath struggled with depression and while she seemed to have conquered it at times, the isolated feeling of being in a bell jar overtook her in the end.

Truth be told, I have also walked through the dark valley of depression and have found my way out from under the Bell Jar. But it wasn't easy. Granted I did not struggle with depression to the extent that Esther does, but I could definitely relate to the hopeless feelings Esther speaks of. The self-doubt. The indecisiveness. Haven't we all experienced those feelings on some level? I think these feelings are especially prevalent in our 20s when we are trying to figure out who we are and what we should do with our lives.

Books like this are not easy to read, but I think they are important to read. It is not a light read. It is not a fun read. But it will open up your eyes to the terrors of depression.

Thanks for this great review Lisa! What do you think readers? Have any of you read this book? And if you want to know what I thought about the book be sure to head over to Lisa's blog and check it out!

(Photo: Magchunk)


Alison Kinsey said...

What a fun idea to swap book reviews! I think I did a school paper on Sylvia Plath YEARS ago! I have no idea if I read this book though, but it sounds eerily familiar, so maybe I did!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Thanks for swapping blogs! This was such a great idea. Looking forward to doing this again in the future!!

Amber said...

Great review Lisa! I tried to read this book last summer but it was a bit of a heavy read for me and it was due back at the library before I could get through it. I am hoping to try reading it again this summer.

I agree that while the book is very dark it is important for us to read books like that!

Mandy said...

I've read this book a few times but not for several years. Perhaps I should give it another go since I didn't have the life experience necessary to appreciate this novel.

I totally agree (with you and Amber), that it is important to delve deeper into harder issues in an attempt to better understand them.

Little Fish said...

The Bell Jar is one of my all time faves. I find the book so relatable because, while most of us have never dealt with what she does, we've all felt some degree of the feelings that lead to her break.

Becky said...

Thanks again Lisa - and we most def. will do this again soon!

Brooke said...

Great review Lisa! I will definitely add The Bell Jar to my list of books to read. Has anyone else read any good books lately?

Gracie said...

This is one of those books that you think, with all the hype, will be silly or morbid, but it isn't. It's actually used in medical professions as a training tool to give insight into a depressed or psychotic mind.

Tracie Nall said...

This book has been on my TBR list for forever now.....I just haven't gotten to it. I'm going to have to move it up the list!

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

I read it and liked it even though it was depressing (no pun intended). I just remember the part where she gets shocked. I was disturbed by that part. Yikes.

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