The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick, and that’s all there was to read about in the papers – goggle-eyed headlines staring up at me on every street corner and at the fusty, peanut-smelling mouth of every subway. It had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.
I thought it must be the worst thing in the world.”

I started reading this book at about 3 in the afternoon one day, and by midnight, I had finished it. I have never read something so utterly compelling and literally could not put it down. It was quite terrifying how often I read something the narrator thought or felt and found myself thinking, “I know exactly what you mean.” The story is narrated by Esther Greenwood (who, for all intents and purposes, is Sylvia Plath), a nineteen-year-old college student. In the beginning of the book she’s in New York, working at a prestigious publishing internship, and she has no idea what she’s going to do with her life. Esther is also profoundly depressed, and her emotional state worsens steadily until she tries to kill herself and is put in a mental institution. So yes, this book will make you feel like you need to hug a puppy and eat ice cream for a few hours just to convince yourself that everything will be okay, but it’s worth it.

Also, to all the people who call this a female version of Cather in the Rye: shut up. You have no idea what you’re talking about. Holden Caulfield was a whiny bitch with nothing real to complain about. Esther Greenwood was brilliant, witty, doomed, and had GENUINE reasons to feel like crap about everything. She makes Holden look like a snot-nosed preschooler throwing a tantrum because someone took his crayons.

Verdict: five out of five stars




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