EVERYONE Has Read This but Me - The Catch-Up Book Club discussion

The Bell Jar
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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Discussion for June 2018 selection.
From the Classics category: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Discussion will include spoilers.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... I just finished. Very sad book.


Fannie D'Ascola | 275 comments And a little more when you know her own story.


Jessica | 26 comments I absolutely loved this book. I thought the writing was simply fantastic and I felt as I could relate to the main character, as someone who has gone through periods of depression.

I'm glad I read this book, I only wish I would have read it sooner. I never would have read it without this group.


Kristin Ames (kmames) | 147 comments I was not excited to read this much since many of my friends way back in the day were forced to read it for school and said it was boring. However, I did not find that to be the case. I thought the writing was excellent and Plath gives a realistic portal of mental illness (be it that it was somewhat autobiographical). So sad this was the only novel all the world was gifted with from such a talent.


Hectaizani I've read this book before but decided to read it again with the group. Books like this make me want to say something profound. Plath handled the subject with care and delicacy but she got her point across. It's a shame that her brilliance was lost way too early.


Inkspill (runinkspill) | 2 comments I finished reading this over the weekend. How Plath uses language is breathtaking.

I thought it was very brave of her to share her experiences and feelings frankly.

And seriously brave to keep going on with (what must have been an awful and frightening) treatment after she was told her first psychiatrist did not do it properly.

Very brave.


Ilene | 5 comments I finished reading this book yesterday. I wasn't sure at first if I would enjoy this book but ended up liking it. I myself struggle with anxiety so at times I was able to relate to the main character in the book.
I feel that this book has particular relevance right now with the recent high profile suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. The character Esther was an up and coming successful writer with everything going for her however when confronted by her editor Jay Cee about what she wants to do after she graduates she realizes she has no idea, she's just done what she is supposed to be doing up until then. This starts the slow breakdown that Esther has.
This book gave good insight into how people that seem to have everything going for them are not automatically happy but are just as easily overcome by pressures and problems in life. Mental disorders can affect anyone, being successful does not make you exempt.
I would recommend this book to others as a way to help others understand how mental disorders can breakdown a person and how they could possibly help someone they know that is struggling.
The Bell Jar


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 568 comments I thought the book was a very accurate portrayal of depression, mental illness, and the subsequent responses of family and acquaintances. Plus, I think Plath was a great writer, mostly unacknowledged by the mainstream public during her life. It was rumored Plath was really raped, too, which may have added to her irrational feelings. The era was not very kind to women who revealed sexual assault.

The saddest thing to me, among the huge number of sad things included in the book as well as in the author's real life, is that she got small credit for her enormous talents of perception and as a writer.

I got the impression most of her doctors were good ones from the book. They certainly seemed more understanding than her mother, at least in the book. I guess her real-life mother was better person than the one in the 'fictional novel'? semi-autobiography? Maybe? She was unhappy with the book's portrayal anyway.


Renee (elenarenee) April I like the incite you gave about sexual assault. I have worked with abuse and rape victims. I can draw a definite parallel ,

This made me think about how far we have come in helping women/men who have been victims. Although I chose to not reread this one I think the book has value for its depiction of mental illness and how people are treated

AprilaPriL does feral sometimes wrote: "I thought the book was a very accurate portrayal of depression, mental illness, and the subsequent responses of family and acquaintances. Plus, I think Plath was a great writer, mostly unacknowledg..."


Marianne | 7 comments I have just finished reading the "The Bell Jar". I think this is a deeply tragic book, also because of the author's destiny. At the same time, it is a wonderful book where Plath really manages to convey how living with mental illness and how depression characterizes the life of the main character Esther.

When I read the book, Plath gave me the feeling of being inside the main character's head, and even think like she does. The book took all energy out of me! I think I have to spend some time returning to normal again before I can start reading another book. It is not often I've experienced a book with such a "power" and I'm sure I want to read it again sometime later in life.

In the first half of the book I think it is excellent, especially because of the wit Plath shows in the descriptions of the empty and superficial, with times very original and funny use of images. The other half is more monotonous, and the creativity just glides through. Esther's breakdown is nevertheless described in full earnestness. Plath describes openly and directly how the depression develops and makes suicide the only solution for Esther. The book gives the reader a terrifying insight in how the world is for a depressed person.

Plath has a beautiful and poetic language.


message 12: by Maurita (new) - added it

Maurita (mauritajoyce) | 13 comments Great review Marianne!


Inkspill (runinkspill) | 2 comments Marianne wrote: "In the first half of the book I think it is excellent, especially because of the wit Plath shows in the descriptions of the empty and superficial, with times very original and funny use of images. The other half is more monotonous, and the creativity just glides through. "

I see you picked up the change in the style halfway through the book, but for me it was more raw and stark than monotonous.

April wrote: "IIt was rumored Plath was really raped, too, which may have added to her irrational feelings. The era was not very kind to women who revealed sexual assault."

I think Plath's talent is overshadowed by rumours and myths - which courts more interest for the tragedy that is known of her life than how she would actually want to know - for being brave to share her story.


Debbie I've wanted to read this book forever. I didn't enjoy it. I found the main self absorbed and annoying. I wish there was some growth or maturity in her character. It's just depressing. I have people close to me who struggle with depression and they are nothing like Esther. It saddens me that this book may have been her cry for help that no one understood. I'm still glad to have read it. ahas anybody ever read any of her poetry? Is it good?


Renee (elenarenee) Debbie I agree with you. I am glad I rea the book but I did not like it. It was beautifully written. I myself have suffered from depression. When I was first diagnosed with atypical autoimmune disorder/lupus I became severely depressed . I know I became completely self involved. Everything was about me.


I was able to learn to deal with my diagnosis and have made a different life. I was strong. I think Esther is the worst case scenario.


I couldn't reread this one. You have made me realize why. It brings bac so much of my struggle. Thank you . This realization helps me understand my self better.


Bell Jar is a book I dislike but I am glad I read it. I would recommend it to some people but not everyone


Debbie wrote: "I've wanted to read this book forever. I didn't enjoy it. I found the main self absorbed and annoying. I wish there was some growth or maturity in her character. It's just depressing. I have people..."


lethe | 94 comments I first read The Bell Jar almost 40 years ago and remembered I loved it. Therefore I was very much surprised to find that this time I really disliked Esther at first, so much so that I contemplated not finishing the book.

But I persevered and I am glad I did, because by the second half all my reservations had evaporated and I ended up loving it again.

A brilliant portrayal of depression.


message 17: by lethe (last edited Jun 17, 2018 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

lethe | 94 comments Debbie wrote: "has anybody ever read any of her poetry? Is it good?"

Her posthumously released volume Ariel contains some beautiful poems, in my opinion.


Jacinta | 62 comments I first read this book as a teenager, and I didn't like it. This time around, however, I found it profound. Being fortunate enough never to have suffered with long-term depression, the only way I can even pretend to understand what that's like is vicariously. Books like The Catcher in the Rye and The Bell Jar allow me to do just that. I think Plath was very effective in capturing the feeling of being trapped and alone where the air is stifling and one's view of reality is distorted. And I agree with Ilene that this feels timely with the recent deaths of Bourdain and Spade and serves as an important reminder that fame, talent, and success bear only so much on happiness and meaning.

When I pick up a book, I want to live another life and see the world through fresh eyes. Plath makes that happen with her only novel, so it was a positive (if not enjoyable) experience for me.


Jacinta | 62 comments What did you think of the male characters? Do you agree with Esther that Buddy was a hypocrite? Do you think Irwin owed her more care given the facts that she was a virgin and that she was openly experiencing heavy bleeding after their encounter? Sexual mores and gender expectations play a prominent role in the novel, so I think it's interesting to consider the perspective we don't see directly.


Jacinta | 62 comments I'm also wondering what people think of Plath's "distortion" of her own life in writing this novel. So much of what happens to Esther happened to Plath, and I have a hard time deciding how much a true story needs to be altered to move from memoir/autobiography to fiction. Then I think of Oprah and the whole A Million Little Pieces debacle...

What do you think? How much fiction is enough?


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 568 comments Her mother was reportedly hurt by the fictional depiction of her role in Plath's downward descent. I think most authors of fiction when published have a little blurb saying any resemblance to reality is a coincidence. That is the escape hatch of all fiction writing. How much more would the hurt and loud denunciations and name-calling have been if the fragile and suicidal Plath had declared her book an autobiography instead of fiction?

Fiction gives any author's story an out in plausible deniability, as well as the freedom to organize events in a more simple understandable timeline. I think writing autobiographical non-fiction is hard today. Just look at how the author of Educated: A Memoir Tara Westover is being dragged over the coals by some GR readers.


PattyMacDotComma I read this a couple of years ago for the same reason this group is named: everybody had read it but me!

I was surprised how much I liked it. I knew her history, so I expected it to be a kind of miserable story, and while parts were a bit grim, there was a lot of humour, too. I put my thoughts in my review. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Shelley | 109 comments I hadn't heard of this book until after I joined this book club. I'm not even half way through it and am nearly bored out of my mind with it. Unfortunately, I couldn't get an audio version of it, just the "real" book. That makes it easier to ignore and harder to get through.

I do hope to finish it, though. Thanks to the posts here I now have a better understanding of the topic. Initially, I thought it was insanity, not depression. (Yes, depression may be a mental illness but I just do not have the clinical vocabulary to come up with the specific illness I had in mind. Sorry, I can't be more clear.) Knowing that others actually loved this book will help me finish it.


message 24: by Tori (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tori | 922 comments Mod
I loved this book! Like lethe, I also disliked Esther at first though. Near the middle I really started to relate to her a lot more. I've had depression off and on from age 9 and I found her description of how it feels so honest. It also goes into depth about suicidal thoughts, which most books I've read gloss over or avoid completely. Which I think is completely understandable, but I also feel it is important to have accurate descriptions like this one of that sort of mindset.


Laura H (laurah30) | 572 comments I finally finished this book and I was left with a half empty feeling. After reading your comments, maybe that is the way I should feel. I didn't hate it or love it ... but how should you feel after reading a book about someone's mental health?
I have family members who grapple with depression and anxiety; I have been fortunate in not having those illnesses myself but I do understand how difficult the world can seem. The author has done a good job of capturing the instability of the situations Esther finds herself in and how her mind interprets the things around her.
These types of books really are timeless, aren't they? Esther could be a number of young people i know today who seem to have the world in front of them, lots of opportunities, yet can't seem to find the path that leads to a better place. Not because they don't want to...it's the whole issue of mental illness that gets in their way.


PattyMacDotComma Laura wrote: "I finally finished this book and I was left with a half empty feeling. After reading your comments, maybe that is the way I should feel. I didn't hate it or love it ... but how should you feel afte..."

I think something to remember is that Plath wrote this back in the early 1960's and it was published under a pseudonym a month before she committed suicide. She had undergone all those treatments and the highs and lows, but these were not topics for normal conversation then. Mental illness wasn't spoken about other than people having been committed to an institution.

I think now, when we read old books, we probably find ourselves recognising and "diagnosing" various characters as bi-polar or autistic or narcissistic because these are part of everyday language now. Instead of just calling somebody crazy and avoiding them, we might be thinking of finding some help.

I'm sure a lot of people in Plath's day were not nearly as understanding or aware as you obviously are from your own experiences. It's bad now - imagine what it must have been like then, when you had no hope.


message 27: by Ella (last edited Jul 05, 2018 02:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ella (ellamc) I first read this as a depressed young woman in the summer before I left for NYC myself to attend college. That "year" would end up being just a semester b/c I ended up in similar circumstances to Plath with a much better outcome (many years after her.) Shortly after that, they'd introduce a new type of antidepressant (the Prozac family) and depression became much less deadly for many people. But that's another story.

I was hesitant to reread this because Plath is SO good at putting the reader in her protagonists' heads - be it in poems or in prose. But I'm glad I did because it's a wonderful portrayal of depression and possibly PTSD and all of the muck that comes along with it. Her writing is simple and realistic while being very effective and affecting.

I have a book called "Letters Home" that Plath's mother published. It's a highly selective bunch of her letters to her family (mostly her mother.) Since her mother's death and since her daughter Frieda has taken charge of her estate, many of the older editions are being redone, and a more complete bunch of her letters have been published since (as well as the unedited diary and a corrected version of Ariel - the way she left it, as opposed to the way Ted Hughes first published it.) In the letters you see real strife between Plath and her mother and how unhappy she was with many parts of her life, where she ended up - I guess - feeling isolated with very little real support. They're worth a read if you're interested in her.

I'm really glad this was chosen to read. I wouldn't have reread it, and I'm glad I did. I'm also really very glad to be alive these days while so many advances in mental health still are taking place.


Renee (elenarenee) Ella and Patty both make really good points. The book was published in the 60's when mental health issues were a huge stigma. Bell Jar helped to put a face to the suffering of depression.

Her beautiful prose helped people see the horror that others felt

It is one of the things that helped me know I was not the only one. I can't reread because as Ella said "plath is so good at putting reader in her protagonist's head."

We are lucky to have the treatments we have now. We have drugs like Prozac. They have humanized electro-shock therapy. It is no longer a torture but an effective treatment.

I wish I could reread like Ella but I still battle life demons.


Karen | 127 comments Laura wrote: "I finally finished this book and I was left with a half empty feeling. After reading your comments, maybe that is the way I should feel. I didn't hate it or love it ... but how should you feel afte..."

I finally finished Bell Jar 2 days ago and still have very mixed emotions. I ended up giving it only 3 stars because I too "didn't hate it or love it". When I told my brother, who LOVES to read, what book I was selecting to read in our catch-up month, he gushed that he finished The Bell Jar in one sitting. (He just could not put it down.) Sadly, it took me weeks to finish, and this fact actually makes me feel like I'm missing something very important. Maybe because my husband deals with depression, I don't want my "pleasure" reading to hit this close to home. Glad to move on to something else!


message 30: by PattyMacDotComma (last edited Jul 26, 2018 12:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

PattyMacDotComma Karen wrote: "Laura wrote: "I finally finished this book and I was left with a half empty feeling. After reading your comments, maybe that is the way I should feel. I didn't hate it or love it ... but how should..."

I think it's hard to read a book like this without remembering that today we a certain familiarity with all kinds of mental conditions and treatments. In Plath's day, people would simply have said she was having nervous (or mental) "breakdowns" and had to be "put away" for treatment.

So what seems obvious to us as we read it was not that well understood by the family and friends (or the author, I suspect). It was a brave book to write at the time considering how much must have been autobiographical.

And yes to moving on!


message 31: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue I finally finished this book today. Like many of you, I'm not sure what I think yet.

The writing was incredible. I felt completely drawn in. At the same time, being drawn into the inner thoughts of a severely depressed and suicidal person was, well, depressing.

I have been fortunate to not have any long-term depression. But I have a very close family member who has been diagnosed with Major Depression. He describes feeling like he's trapped in jello - similar I guess to feeling trapped under a bell jar.

I avoided this book for years. I understood the basic subject matter, and also the belly-button gazing aspects. But like Renee, I'm glad I read it.


message 32: by Megan (last edited Aug 06, 2018 07:41PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Megan | 401 comments I'm glad to have finally read this book, or, rather, listened to the audio book, narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was the perfect narrator for this story. She captures the Esther's youthful enthusiasm. growing discontent, spiral into darkness, and hesitant hopefulness. Plath's writing is brilliantly poetic and evocative. She brings Esther's journey vividly to life, capturing the pettiness under the glamour of the fashion magazine industry, the frustrations of being an intelligent, driven woman in a man's world, the quest for self-identity outside of school, and the harrowing descent into depression. It's one of the most realistic portrayals of depression and mental health issues I have ever read, which made it somewhat slow going, as I had to take breaks. I deal with depression and mental health issues myself, and I had to be in a place where I wouldn't be triggered too much. Her journey is pretty harrowing. The layered way she used the bell jar analogy was very effective. I hated the male doctor she saw first, he's the epitome of so many self-important, "perfect," patronizing, yet clueless doctors. I've had doctors like that. It was such a relief that she ended up in a place with competent staff, with a doctor she clicked with and trusted (and was worthy of that trust). I really enjoyed the mini biography of Plath in the final chapter. She struggled with so many of the same things all women struggle with (particularly writers) and it's so tragic she got trapped in her personal bell jar.


aPriL does feral sometimes  (cheshirescratch) | 568 comments Megan wrote: "I'm glad to have finally read this book, or, rather, listened to the audio book, narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was the perfect narrator for this story. She captures the Esther's youthful enthu..."

Absolutely agree.


Renata (renatag) | 805 comments Mod
Hello Readers!
Welcome everyone to our April 2021 Catch-Up Group Read; this month we'll be reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is our second group reading of this classic book.

Friendly reminder that this is the SPOILERS thread - if you're not yet ready for spoilers then head on over to the pre-read thread here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

What did you think of this book? Does the story still resonate in today's world?


message 35: by Woman Reading (last edited Apr 07, 2021 09:55PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Woman Reading  | 417 comments I've been listening to the audiobook performed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The thought of abandoning it has crossed my mind at least twice but I've made it past the 50% mark and will likely finish it.

I don't find myself connecting emotionally with Esther. I understand what triggered her depression but I still can't say I'm very vested in her. Maybe it's because the 1950s setting and Esther somehow reminded me a bit of Holden of The Catcher in the Rye, just female, slightly older, and without all the swearing. Like Holden, Esther is having an existential crisis. And though she's not from a wealthy background, she appears privileged courtesy of her intelligence getting her scholarships and a fashion magazine internship. And then it's also a case of white privilege as when she expressed something negative, she did so by making a negative comparison with someone of non-European ancestry. Yes, I know that this would be commonplace for the 1950s, but that doesn't make it right.

I do like the strong sense of time and place as this was set in the Eisenhower 1950s - 1953 to be exact according to the little author bio section that was included. Personally, I'm grateful that I don't have direct experience with the 1950s.


Marissa and her goodreads spam | 23 comments i’m not quite finished with this book, but so far i absolutely love it. Esther reminds me of Meursault from The Stranger: in how she reacts to major traumatic life events with such indifference, but things like being out in the sun too long cause her extreme discomfort.

despite the fact that people don’t understand how such a successful person can decline so quickly, i think it makes complete sense. i, too, have had thoughts like “maybe all of my best accomplishments are behind me and nothing else is worth it” or “i have left all of my talent behind in the past”. i think i was in the perfect mindset to understand this book, which might be a bad thing lol. but everything that Esther did made sense. my favorite/most relatable part so far is when Esther writes:

“I summoned my little chorus of voices.
Doesn’t your work interest you, Esther?
You know, Esther, you’ve got the perfect setup of a true neurotic.
You’ll never get anywhere like that, you’ll never get anywhere like that, you’ll never get anywhere like that.”

i wish i had read this sooner, like most of the comments before me said. and i applaud Plath for writing this bc i think it’s important for people suffering to know they aren’t alone.


Renata (renatag) | 805 comments Mod
I found the first half of the book very funny in places. That kind of dark humour, very cynical, always makes me laugh. Catcher In the Rye also made me laugh out loud too. I think Sylvia Plath had a wicked sense of humour. I wish she had survived to write more novels. What a loss.


Woman Reading  | 417 comments I liked that there was a brief section about Plath included in the book. She committed suicide shortly after the birth of her second child and her husband had left her. On the face of it, those circumstances alone don't put Hughes in a positive light. And yet, as her husband, he retained control of her publications, which were the bulk of her estate and legacy.

I can see why this is regarded as a classic of American literature. The explicit sections about suicide, mental illness, attempted date rape, and sex should have been pretty explosive stuff in the early 1960s. So my intellect can appreciate it, but my heart did not.

My review - www.Goodreads.com/review/show/3928681107


Renata (renatag) | 805 comments Mod
Hughes also destroyed Plath's last journal, which likely contained some of her feelings about him.


Woman Reading  | 417 comments Renata wrote: "Hughes also destroyed Plath's last journal, which likely contained some of her feelings about him."


I just looked up Hughes online - mostly Wikipedia. He did experience quite a backlash from outraged feminists. How much of it he deserved is, of course, questionable. On the surface of matters, it didn't help his cause that the woman with whom he had an affair in the 1960s and his third child eventually committed suicide as well (and worse, she took their child with her). So much drama!


Jennifer | 314 comments Kristin wrote: "I was not excited to read this much since many of my friends way back in the day were forced to read it for school and said it was boring. However, I did not find that to be the case. I thought the..."

I think this one isn’t the right choice if people are too young. Many better options for young people and the same topic.

Agree that it’s beautifully written abs too bad she left with just this one work.


Armin | 238 comments I think a lot of people (if not all) can relate to the character in the book at some point. I was also quite shocked to find out that the author killed herself shortly after publishing this book and that it was her semi-biographical novel where she experienced most of the things told in the story. The story carries a heavy burden of depression and it's very realistic and unique.
But, I didn't liked the writing style. It was to abstract and sometimes confusing with the fragmented storytelling and the incoherent gaps and segments that were abrupt broken with another story segments just out of nowhere. Also, there was a lot of focus on some unnecessary details, but there wasn't much focus on key points.
So, I think I belong to the people that "didn't hate it or love it" to much.


message 43: by Woman Reading (last edited Apr 11, 2021 03:08PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Woman Reading  | 417 comments I had read Susannah Cahalan's The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness, which had given a brief history of how people with mental illness have been treated in the US. So it was a bit horrible to read Esther's experiences, and it was easy to understand Esther's assessment of her first male psychiatrist. The description of the electroshock treatment was horrifying - including the burn marks left behind.

Esther though was one of the lucky ones! She had a patroness who put her in a private sanitarium and with a competent doctor. I got the feeling that she omitted all of the psychoanalysis from the time she was inside the asylum, and the reader was only left with her terror of the electroshock treatments. And I'm confused why patients with mental illness were given insulin and allowed to put on massive weight gains.


message 44: by Woman Reading (last edited Apr 16, 2021 02:06PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Woman Reading  | 417 comments Armin wrote: "I think a lot of people (if not all) can relate to the character in the book at some point.

But, I didn't liked the writing style. It was to abstract and sometimes confusing with the fragmented storytelling and the incoherent gaps and segments that were abrupt broken with another story segments just out of nowhere. Also, there was a lot of focus on some unnecessary details, but there wasn't much focus on key point..."


Because I had listened to the audiobook, I think that smoothed out some of the "writing issues" you noted. But the fragmented storytelling would still be evident because I think that was the author's representation of the mental breakdown. With this kind of plot, especially with a first person POV, I wouldn't expect a linear storytelling.


Milli | 32 comments I love this book. I can completely empathise with Esther in the first half, and I think the second half is fascinating in its writing and how it portrays experiences Plath had herself. I like that the book ends with optimism.

I think it's funny that comparisons are drawn to the Catcher in the Rye, a book I couldn't stand, when I loved this book so much!


Armin | 238 comments Woman Reading wrote: "Armin wrote: "I think a lot of people (if not all) can relate to the character in the book at some point...."

I see your point, but it didn't had any dramatisation or other effect to me, except that it confused me at times. I have really mixed feelings about this book.
It has strong themes, like the social expectation and its pressure on females in the 1950's. Social standing of women and their relations towards men, which (to say at least) treated them unfairly. I mean, the smartest and most ambitious woman could be the most a secretary or a teacher. Woman was expected to take care of the family and that's it. Esther was above that. She was different, smart, ambitious, but didn't thought that she could fit in the man's world and therefore isolated herself and thought herself under the bell jar, which gave her constant pressure. Ok.
You already mentioned it, but will also do mention the lack of knowledge in medicine especially for people with mental issues that was narrowed down to pumping them up with Insulin and causing Insulin coma, which could cause more severe consequences (and sometimes death) and of course the casual attitude towards people with mental issues like: "let's just electrify crazy people, that will help them". They were treated like potatoes.
But, aside the themes, the whole narration brings a "who cares ?" mood, which invites me to be also indifferent. Where are the emotions ? There's a mental breakdown, she passes out in the cellar, wants to kill herself. What happened there ? How did she survived several days with all the swallowed pills ? But no, more important are the details what she and the other girls dresses and shoes were wearing etc. She's kind of indifferent to everything, she has no emotions to her mother or brother or we don't actually know, because she didn't explained it at all. She left those gaps. Only dramatic emotions were present when Esther was set up for the electrocution for the second time. A guy tried to rape her, her best friend killed herself, she was like: ok, whatever. She grew up without a father figure, but what triggered her suicide thoughts, that she wasn't admitted to summer school and that she had a writer's block ?
I think it could be better than that.

.


message 47: by lethe (last edited Apr 12, 2021 01:47AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

lethe | 94 comments Armin wrote: "But, aside the themes, the whole narration brings a "who cares ?" mood, which invites me to be also indifferent. Where are the emotions ?"

"She's kind of indifferent to everything, she has no emotions to her mother or brother"


In my experience, being indifferent is one of the symptoms of depression.


Armin | 238 comments lethe wrote: "In my experience, being indifferent is one of the symptoms of depression."

I just wanted to point out that the novel could be less inert, but you are right. I guess the author was also indifferent how the book will turn out at some point and just didn't cared enough and wanted to bring her life on paper and finish the book before she killed herself.


Woman Reading  | 417 comments Armin wrote: "lethe wrote: "In my experience, being indifferent is one of the symptoms of depression."

"There's a mental breakdown, she passes out in the cellar, wants to kill herself. What happened there ? How did she survived several days with all the swallowed pills ? ... she has no emotions to her mother or brother or we don't actually know, because she didn't explained it at all. She left those gaps. ... She grew up without a father figure, but what triggered her suicide thoughts, that she wasn't admitted to summer school and that she had a writer's block?
I think it could be better than that."


Lethe, I agree - indifference can be a symptom of depression.

The audiobook didn't label chapters but separated them by this kind of haunting, yet a bit creepy, music. The music also signaled that there could be a jump in time.

Armin, yes, I agree that there were gaps of time, knowledge, or necessary insight into Esther. I like analyzing this book more than the experience of reading it, which is why I had rated this 2.5 ☆, rounded up to 3. I just didn't like Esther. There wasn't any insight about her views or the quality of relationships with her family members. She was pretty callous with the sick Doreen, leaving her in the hallway (this is before the depression really began).

Since this was a first person POV, I assumed that some of the gaps (after she took her pills) was because she had blacked out or was in the grip of her depressive fugue. Depression can distort a person's perception of life compared with someone who is healthier.

As to why Esther became depressed ... The only hint that she had given about her potential predisposition to depression was her admission of being neurotic (which honestly I don't think it's saying very much). She sees herself as being smart and a talented writer. Given the prevailing social expectations and her frustrations with them, not winning the summer class placement was a significant catalyst. I wrote more in my review - www.Goodreads.com/review/show/3928681107


Armin | 238 comments Woman Reading wrote: "Armin wrote: "lethe wrote: "In my experience, being indifferent is one of the symptoms of depression."

"There's a mental breakdown, she passes out in the cellar, wants to kill herself. What happen..."


I agree with you, you did a good review. I think, I also didn't reconnected emotionally with Esther. I'm not a big fan of audiobooks in general, I like to read, but IMO the gaps could be separated with new chapters. I don't mind the first person narration, I love unique storytelling, but it's a double-edged sword.


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