19. The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath

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Having read a run of recent releases, and a few long ones at that, I thought I’d opt for an older, almost classic book this time. As I said at the start of this challenge, I was going to use the opportunity to fill some gaps in my literary knowledge and with last year being the 50th anniversary of The Bell Jar it seemed like a good one to go for.

The novel opens with Esther Greenwood in New York, having won a prize to experience the world of publishing. She is a bright, successful scholarship student on an English Honours programme at a prestigious women’s college. Overwhelmed by the decisions she must make about her future career and relationships with men she falls into depression and becomes suicidal. The rest of the book deals with her recovery in a psychiatric hospital.

I know this is an important book as it deals frankly with mental health, but I just couldn’t sympathise with Esther at all. I appreciate that depression is an illness with no discernible cause but I just had no patience with her wallowing in self-pity when, in spite of all the restrictions put upon women in the 1950s she actually had a great deal of choices available to her. I didn’t find the writing beautiful and poetic, but clunky and laboured. In short, I didn’t enjoy it.

2 stars

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