Book Review: The Bell Jar By Sylvia Plath

“If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time, then I'm neurotic as hell. I'll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another for the rest of my days.”

― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath, an American author and poet, only wrote one book, The Bell Jar. The book, which was first released in 1963 under the alias "Victoria Lucas," is semi-autobiographical, albeit places and people's identities have been altered. Because of the protagonist's decline into mental illness and Plath's personal experiences with what may have been severe depression or bipolar II disease, the novel is sometimes referred to be a roman à clef. A month after its first release in the United Kingdom, Plath committed suicide. In line with the intentions of both Plath's mother and husband, Ted Hughes, the book was initially published under Plath's name in 1967 but was not released in the United States until 1971. 

Synopsis from Goodreads...

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

My reaction to this novel...

When I spotted this book on Goodreads' list of suggested books, I became extremely fascinated. I can still remember how much I loved psychology in college and how fascinated I was by the workings of the human mind. Because the brain is the body's primary control system for functioning, terrible things can occur in the blink of an eye with only a small chemical imbalance. It was often emphasized by my psychology professor in college that there is just a thin line, thin as a hair strand, separating normal behavior from insanity, and that we should always take good care of that single strand.

Anyway, I became really intrigued in this work after reading that it was partially based on the author's experiences before she committed suicide. Actually, the fact that the author was able to write such a fantastic work despite having a mental condition truly astounded me. Even though mental illness is not that startling because everyone can have it due to fundamental aspects of human nature, reading this book might be a significant eye-opener to be able to grasp the thoughts of people who are suffering from mental illness. The book was a little confusing to read at first due to some flights of thoughts, but as you read it more closely, you will be able to see how depressed she was and how she had suffered from hallucinations.

I became more and more aware of how challenging and draining it was to walk in the main character's shoes as I read the novel. I could feel her uncertainties, sensitivities, discontentment, and paranoia. All of those emotions are palpable while reading this novel. I was equally astounded and terrified when the author was able to convey what it was like to experience electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). As a nurse, I had the opportunity to observe this type of therapy in action on patients who shared the same illness as the main character in this story. It was extremely ominous for the observer, and the patients' situation made it much more so. It's much worse when you observe individuals convulsing and exhibiting indicators of physical weakness following the therapy. Seeing this sort of therapy was incredibly upsetting, especially for the patients and their families.

This book was fantastic. I felt as though this book allowed me to get to know the author well. Despite the fact that she had already passed away, I was quite impressed with her ability to create a book that let you truly understand what it meant to be insane. I wholeheartedly suggest it to all book lovers out there. This is an absolute must-read.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨(4.5/5)

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.”

Unmet expectations are the primary cause of depression in the majority of people. Expectations that aren't intended but nonetheless hold out faith that it will eventually happen. Expectations that, despite your best efforts, are challenging and impossible to meet. They say we shouldn't expect anything from anybody, but it's also true that as humans, we're prone to expecting, especially if we feel we deserve it.


Disclaimer: Booksreadbyhannel is not a business website. The opinions expressed here are unbiased and based only on my own feelings and reactions while reading the books I featured here in my blog. My reviews reflect my utmost sincerity. I paid for the books I review here out of my own pocket. Books provided by authors and publishers are otherwise specified.