Book Reviews of The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
ISBN-13: 9780553278354
ISBN-10: 0553278355
Publication Date: 8/1/1983
Pages: 224
Rating:
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 192

3.9 stars, based on 192 ratings
Publisher: Bantam
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

70 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Bell Jar on + 373 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Engagingly written book that explores the mental break-down of a young woman. This is semi-autobiographical, as Plath and her main character have some strong similarities. In my opinion, I think this describes quite well the fusion of mania and depression in a bi-polar person. Not the up-up-up mania, but the irritable and angry mania - a perfect "mixed" state. The title is an analogy to the isolation and separation the main character feels - everyone can see what's in a bell jar, but no one can hear what's going on inside.
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Helpful Score: 5
I can easily see why this is a classic.. what I cannot understand is why it took me so long to read it! And I mean, why I did not read it earlier on in my life, because I finished it in a day.
I saw myself in Esther's downward spiral so vividly, it was frightening! The characters were all so well written, but not so much so that they took away from the main story.. from the all consuming fear of being a nobody.. becoming nothing. Esther's fears consume the reader much as they consumed herself.

I was so engrossed in this book, that the night I finished the read, I dreamed of shock therapy.
reviewed The Bell Jar on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This was a fascinating and beautifully written portrayal of a young woman's nervous breakdown. Based on Plath's own experiences, the story takes you into the thought distortions of someone who is suffering from depression and all the other factors making up a nervous collapse. I particularly enjoyed Plath's use of language. Excellent reading.
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Helpful Score: 2
This book is a real classic. The way Plath writes is beautiful and thought provoking. I would imagine that almost everyone can see themselves in the character at one point or another in this book. A must read.
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Helpful Score: 1
I am glad to have read this book but it wasn't one of my favorites. The characters (other than the protagonist) were completely interchangeable and thus forgettable. This may accurately reveal how severe depression distorts people into more empty, interchangeable abstractions, but it made for a dull read. Esther (the protagonist) asserted her own intellect several times only by revealing that she got good grades in school - I wish Sylvia Plath had shown me that she was intelligent. I would have accepted the other characters if she had given Esther more substance especially when she was in her deeply internal state. I often read books of a similar vein, I just think it has been done better.

That said, if you are reading the book to catch a glimpse of Sylvia Plath's own struggles it is more interesting. I also feel that had I been alive in the era the book was written I may have appreciated it more. There were several cultural aspects that I didn't really relate to (some I readily admit I had no real clue what she was talking about). I was glad to have another glimpse of how mental illness was handled in recent history, but even so Esther seemed to have a comparably easy/elite experience with it.
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Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book. It is a little depressing but very fascinating to go into the life of someone who is going mentally insane. Couldn't put it down.
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Helpful Score: 1
A haunting story - semi-autographical - of a woman's decent into madness and recovery.
reviewed The Bell Jar on + 107 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
The Bell Jar does not read like a classic - "classic" being the term of very old books with very old language - the description I've always had for the classic genre. This book has a very contemporary writing style, and despite it being written in the 1960s, The Bell Jar's topic of mental illness certainly transcends the generations and can be related by many people no matter when they read the book. I absolutely loved it!
reviewed The Bell Jar on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I love this book. I know that a lot of people think that it is all about self absorbed youth and an American's inability to handle life. But, I really saw this book as a story of people's thoughts, the thoughts that I think a lot of us have inside of us. This short book is introspective, thoughtful, and an important read.
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Helpful Score: 1
After hearing how iconic this book is, I had to (finally) read it for myself. I did not get hooked until halfway through. The writing is a little hard to follow - with long sentences and jumpy subjects. However, once I got into it, it was hard to put down. You start to feel as if you're there with Esther and in her mind. Plath's writing is so incredibly detailed. You can picture every scene and it feels as if you're a bystander, watching Esther's every move.
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Helpful Score: 1
I think everyone knows how good this book is. It's at the absolute front of the line of the depressed female genre, with Prozac Nation coming in second in my opinion.
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Helpful Score: 1
My daughter read this book for a high school honors class, and loved it. I read it many years ago, and remember that itwas very sad. The following description is from Amazon:

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
reviewed The Bell Jar on
Helpful Score: 1
This is my favorite book of all time (I think the entire family likes it, considering all 3 of us girls own at least one copy..and the Spark Notes). All in all, an excellent read from one of the best female writers of the 20th century.
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Helpful Score: 1
Beautifully well-written with a satisfyingly unique voice, this book is a MUST read. Plath led an interesting life and I thought the bit of biographical information in my copy improved my understanding and appreciation of this book, her only novel.
reviewed The Bell Jar on
Helpful Score: 1
One of the must reads about the experience of depression in this young woman's breakdown. A classic. Sylvia Plath is one of my absolute favorite authors.
reviewed The Bell Jar on
Helpful Score: 1
This was a pretty dark book, but I love Sylvia Plath's style of writing, and it tells a great, albeit twisted, story.
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This book gets progressively interesting. At first it's hard to get into, but the story eventually drew me into Esther's plight. Sylvia Plath's writing is fantastic.
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Sylvia Plath is a master of leading one down the path of the descent into madness and despair. The voice of the character draws the reader in, in a hypnotic, can't-put-this-down, kind of way.
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Facinating story into the life of a woman whose path closely paralleled the authors. Not an uplifting read but insightful.
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I love books about psychiatric hospitals or mental illness. Sadly, this book was very dry and just a very slow read. I found myself having to force myself through the book.
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A very dark, gloomy book. Maybe to be expected as the author ended up committing suicide. I didn't really find much of interest to this book.
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A wonderful read but a slow one. I felt the narrator's pain, who was essentially the author, and connected with her. However, the story itself was slow to take off, especially in the beginning. Additionally, the end just left me with a dull ache of, "Really?" However, it is realistic; life doesn't always have a clear 'happy' or 'sad' ending, but I think there could have been a better place to end it or way to. I did really enjoy it though.
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About a young woman on her own in NYC as a junior editor and her struggles with her phychological demons. Very well written and interesting.
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I absolutely understand why this book is considered a classic. Sylvia Plath wrote this in a way that really brings you into her head, right alongside her every thought.
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Semi-fictionalized account of Sylvia Plath's mental breakdown and what lead up to that time and her stay in a mental institution.
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Enjoyed it.
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The book was amazing. I've read it numerious times. Sylvia Plath is an amazing writer. I would reccoment this book to anyone who likes psychology, or memoirs.
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A little difficult to get into in the beginning, but definitely an interesting read.
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This book was good - I wasn't sure what to expect. Several times in the Foreward and the Biographical Notes this was compared to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye - from a female perspective. I would agree. Very depressing spiral for someone so young, but worth the read.
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Great book, cannot believe I didn't read this book in high school.
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Took a long time to get into this book. A memoir of the breakdown of an "overachiever." and the pressures that drove her.
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A very influential novel - the only one published by the brilliant poet Sylvia Plath. Autobiographical and moving.
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A classic. Worth a read for anyone who's ever been through a rough patch.
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Some say this book is depressing, i felt that it was not depressing but eye opening. To have an understanding of what someone whos having a breakdown is experiencing. There were alot of funny part which surprised me. I enjoyed it and finished it quickly
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This book drew me in, I had to keep reading to unveil the slow breakdown of Esther's life and mind.
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Overrated, but I enjoyed it in high school.
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Wonderful, moving classic.
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One of my favorite books, and the only novel ever written by the tragic Sylvia Plath, "The Bell Jar" is surprisingly autobiographical as it details the life of its main character and her slow, yet sure, descent into what is essentially insanity. This is a very readable book that captures the time period pitch-perfectly, and you'll find that while the main character's actions and thoughts can be a bit disturbing at times, your predisposed ideas about mental illness and sociology will be challenged and possibly changed. I could certainly relate to the young woman, and I think anyone, even mentally healthy people like myself, will find realism and understanding within these fantastically-written pages. A true American classic that should be read by everyone interested in serious literature.
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Absolutely one of my favorite books. It is heavy and a bit crazy but a fantastic read. Sylvia Plath is one of the most fascinating writers, and if you have never read a Plath novel this is a wonderful starter!
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The heartbreaking story of a talented young woman who descends into madness.
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Interesting, quick read.
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My first Sylvia Plath read. Interesting description of a turn with mental illness. Really showed some of the angst associated with being a young adult in the 50s.
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This is an amazing book! If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up!
reviewed The Bell Jar on + 9 more book reviews
amazing (I don't think I know anyone who didn't like this book); an essential read
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I really enjoyed this book. It is a book about depression, although it made me laugh in places. I found the writing beautiful. I would highly recommend it.
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I decided to try and read this when i was going threw a time when I could not get into anything I was trying to read. This snapped my out of it and i finished it in a day or two. Good read.
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AMAZING CANNOT BELIEVE I DID NOT READ THIS UNTIL I WAS 37
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An essential read for all young feminists. I sent it to my 18-year-old great-grandaughter and would recommend it to all my "greats" (27) male and female.
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This book was a fairly quick read. An attempt for me to read a "classic". I want to by no means dismiss Plath's powerful life story on any level, but this book did not delight me as I hoped it would. I found it strange, and slow, and a little bit boring even.
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Emotional and endearing look into the main character, Esther's, mind and experience at a crucial time in her life.
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A good read, but not nearly as good as I thought it would be.
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Great book!! Absolutely riveting.
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Although this was a rather short book, it took me many sittings to finish it. The story just did not capture me and I thought the 'climax' was rather weak. It was disappointing, especially considering the hype.
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Another book read for a book club. Definitely a classic and one that I wouldnt have probably chose to read of my own accord. Definitely a book worth reading.

The story follows Esther Greenwood a brilliant, talented and beautiful college student in the early 1950s. The story opens in June 1953, the month the Rosebergs were electrocuted for treason, with Esther at an exclusive month-long internship working at a New York magazine. She is given her own room at a New York hotel as are all the other girls and she works as an editors assistant at a New York magazine part of the day and is taken to plays, fashion shows, shopping trips, etc. the rest of the time.

As the month of her internship draws to a close, Esther will have to go back home and begin her life again as a scholarship-based college student. We see her begin to behave strangely but we also know her thoughts and her behavior just seems to be that of a young woman who knows she has a lot of talent and is facing the pressure to succeed.

As the story progresses, her behavior definitely becomes that of someone who is experiencing an extreme mental breakdown in a time where mental illness is shunned and the treatments are none or barbaric.

The story is beautifully written and is a semi-autobiographical account of the authors life as a young woman. As I read it, I was heartbroken with how little was known about mental illness and how horribly the people who suffered from mental diseases were treated by the people they knew and often by the people in medicine.

Her life under the bell jar and eventual, if temporary, escape from the bell jar is riveting.
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This is a very moving book. At times you seem to of had the same feelings this character had and other times you just wonder where she got her ideas. The is a fun roller coaster ride of a girl slowly dipping into depression.
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Plath was an outstanding talent. Her writing keeps the reader moving through this novel with ease. During the first one hundred pages I laughed at her experiences and descriptions as she describes them. Obviously, she had a fine sense of humor. From that point, she launches into the mental fall that she, herself, experienced in college. As the novel unfolds the reader finds herself in the mind of the lead character and sees her environment and interactions through her eyes. I can't help wondering why I did not read this one so much earlier in my life. It's an experience without par. If you have been avoiding this one, don't do so any longer. Read it.
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Book includes drawings by Sylvia Plath.
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This book is very well written and keeps you interested the whole time. I both enjoyed it and was disturbed it. It is a pretty dark and depressing book, however it does end in a positive light (unless you read Sylvia Plath's biography at the end).
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Feeling a little lazy so I'm just copying the info here:
"This extraordinary work--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."

I've heard the name Sylvia Plath for ages, usually in hushed whispers from kids wearing too much black eyeliner and facial piercings. And that's just the boys. So when I was writing for a character of similar tastes, I decided it was time to delve a little deeper and see what was the appeal.

Esther Greenwood is a reflection of Sylvia Plath. She should have been blissfully happy, with intelligence, education, wealth, and her college sweetheart proposing to her, but instead she feels numb, stifled. The societal expectations is for women to only pursue husband and babies, stopping any other ambition once a match is made. Her boyfriend tells her as much, saying that once she has a baby., she won't want to write poetry. Not want to write? Seems like a miserable life. And Esther shrivels.

As someone who has struggled with depression, I could relate to the feeling of the bell jar, allowing no air to circulate, no thoughts or feelings to progress. I've felt that way. It's a difficult experience to explain and Ms. Plath captured it rather well.
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A moving and somewhat harrowing account of a young woman's mental breakdown and suicide attempt.
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I read this book after it sat in my TBR for many years, I actually sort of wish I had left it there a few more years, not that it wasn't good but it gave me nightmares about being in a mental hospital.. eeek...
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I enjoyed this book...a very easy read and insightful.
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loved it
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Excellent, depressing classic!!!
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Sylvia Plath was quite talented...
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very good book
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I've registered this on bookcrossing as well.

I've always wanted to read this, and I'm glad I finally had the chance to. It was very interesting considering that it is a fictional sort-of biography.

Some things just didn't make sense to me...alsmost like there was a page missing from the book, but there wasn't, the story just kinda skips and doesn't explain what the heck is going on... The first half of the book just sucked me right in, but once the depression or schizophrenia or whatever really kicked in, I was really lost and a little confused, but I suppose that's the point of telling it from her point of view. I didn't find it depressing at all, not like it's generally made out to be.
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Soon to be a movie! A vulnerable young girl wins a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine and finds herself plunged into a nightmare.
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A vunerable young girl wins a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine and finds herself plunged into a nightmare. An autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath's own mental breakdown and sucide attempt. THE BELL JAR is more than a confessional novel, its a comic but painful statement of what happens to a woman's aspirations in a society that refuses to take them seriously...a society that expects electroshock to cure the despair of a sensitive, questioning your artist whose search for identity becomes a terrifying descent toward madness.
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A vulnerable young girl wins a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine and finds herself plunged into a nightmare. An autobiographical account of Sylvia Plath's own mental breakdown and suicide attempt.