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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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The Bell Jar (original 1963; edition 2006)

by Sylvia Plath

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18,23127894 (3.98)401
Member:shurayuki-hime
Title:The Bell Jar
Authors:Sylvia Plath
Info:Harper Perennial Modern Classics (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (Author) (1963)

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» See also 401 mentions

English (271)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  English (1)  All languages (276)
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
I don't totally give up on books that often but...despite seemingly being the target audience for goold ol' Miss Plath, I found this dull as dirt and quit halfway through. Can I keep my English degree anyway? ( )
  hurlockc | Jan 23, 2015 |
loved first half (NYC) more than latter ( )
  kalizely | Jan 21, 2015 |
Having little knowledge of Ms. Plath, the surprise comes at the end. I won't reveal what that is. But as a book in which depression is a major theme, it is well, kinda depressing, but well-written. One of the reasons I read is to develop empathy, to see life from someone else's point of view. ( )
  charlie68 | Jan 10, 2015 |
I've just finished the book, and I'm sitting here feeling mightily raw and exposed. I know now why I've felt a kinship to Sylvia Plath for longer than I can remember.

I can't review this book. I have nothing negative to say and everything positive has already been said before and better. I guess I just wanted to add my name to those who relate to The Bell Jar. The fact that this book exists is an indescribable comfort. ( )
  Izavel | Jan 2, 2015 |
For all its strong points, I can't help but feel like this book can't help but be a gifted writer's first novel. In any first novel, the tendency is to make everything personal, a reflection of one's own personal world, is overwhelming. And like any first novel, a brilliant start does not necessarily lead to a brilliant finish or even a sustainable narrative effort. If this book is good, it is also highly uneven.

The strongest imagery in The Bell Jar comes during the beginning. I won't forget her imagery of dead bodies floating in balloons at supper time anytime soon. The imagery in the rest of the novel tends to wax and wane rather inconsistently. Much of this is the experience of a poet trying to write a novel. If a poem is a strong punch, then a novel is more like a long distance run.

Perhaps I read this book at the wrong time in my life. The metaphor of the Bell Jar is a serious one -- one that demands reflection. But at this particularly moment in time, I don't want to think deeply about Bell Jars. I want to think of heroes shattering glass jars. I need a realistic rendering of a hero, even if it is done with unliterary sentimentality.

But then again, perhaps I did read this at the right time. I feel like Esther. We each have our own Bell Jar (even if there are different degrees of Bell Jarredness in the world). I keep waiting for my life to begin and for the roles that have been assigned to me to melt away like so much useless snow in spring. I keep waiting for the Bell Jar to surrender to optimism and what I perceive to be the obviousness of my life's purpose. When it doesn't, I'm apt -- like Esther -- to slip into self-defeating binges of narcissistic fantasy.

For all its emphasis on the negative, the book ends (surprisingly!) on a hopeful note -- the word "rebirth" sticks out in my mind. With each reading of this book, I hope Ms. Plath finds another rebirth. ( )
  DanielClausen | Jan 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
The Bell Jar is a marvelously unself-conscious confessional novel dashed off before such documents were in vogue. Now, however, it is as if the likes of Joan Didion have merely been sweeping the stage for Sylvia's ghostly comeback.
added by Shortride | editTime, Martha Duffy (Jun 21, 1971)
 
Her subject--the nervous breakdown and attempted suicide of a well-behaved, bright and successful college girl during the summer vacation of 1953--is hardly topical, and for careful, plain, dolorous prose style, which conveys the world of the heroine under the bell jar of madness with its "stifling distortions," offers few sentimental attractions. It is not a facile, entertaining or dramatic book; it has none of the sharp bitter humor and bite of her poems. It's not well shaped (it can be quite awkward); it offers no modish visionary thrills from the world of the insane, and though it has scenes of college life, the suburbs and the fashion magazine world of the 1950's for the most part it just hangs there dully and drags you down with its heroine; you don't believe she really recovers. Its vague, absorbent, melancholy pull lingers for weeks.
 
[Plath] had failed to understand Esther's malady, and had left behind an incomplete symbol of the age it reflected. Such a reading makes "The Bell Jar" a considerably better book than Miss Plath regarded it.
 
Esther Greenwood's account of her year in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing. It makes for a novel such as Dorothy Parker might have written if she had not belonged to a generation infected with the relentless frivolity of the college- humor magazine. The brittle humor of that early generation is reincarnated in "The Bell Jar," but raised to a more serious level because it is recognized as a resource of hysteria.
 

» Add other authors (97 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Plath, SylviaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dorsman-Vos, W.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fleckhaus, WillyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaiser, ReinhardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lois AmesBiographical Notesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
for Elizabeth and David
First words
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
Quotations
"She stared at her reflection in the glossed shop window as if to make sure, moment by moment, that she continued to exist."
The trouble was, I hated the idea of serving men in any way.
To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.
I took a deep breath, and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061148512, Paperback)

Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:31 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

This novel--echoing Plath's own experiences as a rising writer/editor in the early 1950s--chronicles the nervous breakdown of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful, but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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