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The Bell Jar
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Book Discussions > May 2014 Book of the Month: The Bell Jar

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Elizabeth (persephone17) For May, our theme idea was a basic one: a classic that, unlike most of what we read, wasn't science fiction or fantasy. You guys had tons of suggestions, but only one book could win- and that was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
Here's a synopsis of the plot for those who haven't heard of this famous novel:

Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity.

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

Of course, this being a pretty famous book, if you've already read it, just start the discussion below with your thoughts/feelings/etc., and same deal if you're reading along this month. Happy reading!

Badschnoodles Genevieve (badschnoodles) | 89 comments I loved this book, but it's been about 20 years since I read it, so I think I should maybe reread it soon!

Katie Kempski (darthphasma) | 120 comments I read this in eleventh grade, and I loved it. I've been meaning to read it again now that Ive studied more of her writing, so good choice, all!

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Ruby Elliott | 6 comments I am enjoying this book. I have never read Sylvia Plath and am loving the way she writes. This week has been finals week for Grad School and this book was a nice break from studying.

Elizabeth (persephone17) So, I've had this book for awhile, but now I have the motivation to finally start it. I've only ever heard good things, so I'm excited. I also didn't realize that Plath wrote poetry; I might have to read some of that too.

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Ruby Elliott | 6 comments I enjoyed the book. I love that we get to see the slow progression of what is happening with Esther instead of everything happening just over night. I will definitely recommend it to others to read.

Clémence | 117 comments I didn't know about this book before you suggested it to me, and thank you very much for it !

I really loved it. It was really good and easy to read. Being myself in a moment when I don't know where I'm going, I could easily relate to it.
Very, very good book.

Claire | 45 comments I have to say I was apprehensive about this book... A semi-autobiographical novel depicting the descent into madness? No thanks.

However, I am glad I picked it up from the library. I was instantly gripped by Esther. This book is so relatable and you can really feel what she's going through.

Good pick :)

Elizabeth (persephone17) I just finished this the other day- while it was good, it wasn't as great as I thought.
Don't get me wrong- I really enjoyed it! At times, though, it felt like not much was happening- which is, of course, understandable, but the writing style was simple, you needed a good plot to keep going. I really enjoyed the beginning and ending, but the middle was a bit of a struggle.
However, Claire is right- you can really identify with Esther, especially if you've ever went through a mental disease.
I thought the ending was especially realistic- even though she gets better, she says she knew that the madness could take over at anytime once again, which is very common. Overall, a fascinating & horrifying read of someone completely losing it.

Regan (mollytornado) | 36 comments I have been wanting to read this novel for quite some time. I thought it would be my kind of book, but, disappointingly, it wasn't.

I was not drawn in by this novel. I found it cold and detached, and the writing and plot rather lacklustre. I, myself, have dealt with mental illness for the majority of my life, yet I did not find Esther relateable. There was not a moment that I felt sympathy for her. I actually disliked her at times, specifically because of how self-important and superficial she could be.

I do feel like this novel does convey how swiftly a mental illness can destroy a person's life, no matter how intelligent they are, or how good their life appears. Mental illness does not have to be triggered by any terrible life event, it can just come down on you and you have no idea where it came from.

Before reading The Bell Jar, I had heard it be compared to The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; this did not help its cause, since I adored The Catcher in the Rye, and Esther failed to impact me the way Holden Caulfield did.

Anyway, I will leave this post with a line from the novel that did resonate with me.

"The silence depressed me. It wasn't the silence of silence. It was my own silence."

Astratkotter | 11 comments I read this book in grade 10 and really enjoyed it, but I read it again last year and didn't enjoy it at all. I guess you need different things at different times in your life. In grade 10 I needed other women who felt lost, but now I guess I don't need that anymore. Just my opinion.

Claire | 45 comments I can see where Astratkotter is coming from. Sometimes I feel lost, and look for characters that are feeling that way too.

It's interesting that you felt differently when you read it a second time.

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