Book Review: The Bell Jar


Sylvia Plath's only novel, The Bell Jar is a fantastic dive into the mind, and her experiences with mental illness. Semi-autobiographical, the language Plath uses to describe her/Esther's outlook, experiences, and later treatments is beautiful. Her writing puts the reader right into Esther's head, and gives them an understanding of what living with a mental illness is like. Even better, her language changes throughout the novel as Esther's health changes, reflecting her darker moods, as well as her better days. Esther is a fantastically sympathetic and vibrant character, despite her cynicism and depression. I found myself really invested in her story and experiences, and again Plath's writing paints a luscious picture of that story. I don't want to oversell this novel -- I think part of why I loved it is because I came into it expecting it to be Yet Another Classic Book which I often find to be overly masculine. But this wasn't. Throughout the book, even at the peak of Esther's descent into mental illness, I found myself identifying really strongly with her and investing in what happened to her. It feels rare to read a book in a woman's voice that's highly regarded, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the femininity that colors the book.

Overall, this was another great read. Again, expectations definitely may have played into my reading, but on the whole I was blown away by the style, substance, characters, and story of The Bell Jar. Highly, highly recommended summer reading!