A great book, unless you’re already feeling a bit down.
For years, the only thing I knew about the Sylvia Plath was that she stuck her head in a gas oven. This didn’t seem right, but I never read anything she wrote until my friend Thura passed me The Bell Jar.
We sat on the floor in the city library, in front of a rack of books, and she pushed the book over the floor to where I sat and said: ,,Here, read this if you ever feel like you’re too happy.” So I did. And now I’m gloomy.
It’s a sneaky sort of gloom: at first you might think that you’re perfectly okay but gradually it gets to you. You start wondering what’s sucking the energy out of you and before you know it you’re stuck under a blanket watching Netflix. I reached this point on page 169, I think, and it took me a few days to pluck up the courage to finish the book.
But I m so glad I did! Because it’s a great book! And despite the gloom it is also funny and smart and sarcastic and interesting.
Esther Greenwood, the young woman who tells the story, is intelligent and insightful and terribly depressed by the weight of men and sex and marriage and virginity and babies. I found myself thanking the ongoing march of feminism at nearly every page of the book.
She is a talented student and gets the opportunity to intern at a magazine in New York for a month. While the other girls in the programme try to get as much out of a month in the city as they can, Esther dreads the moment she’ll have to decide what to do next. She can’t have the life she wants, even if she’d know what she wanted. She is constantly told who to be by everyone she meets and shuts out the world more and more. When her summer plans fall through, her composure goes to pieces and she succumbs to depression. Then there’s psychiatrists. And then there’s the ending.
This is Plaths only novel. The oven happened a few weeks after it was published. But if you read the book, you can remember her by something else, for instance exchanges like:
‘When am I going to see you?’
-‘Do you really want to know?’
-‘Never,’ I said, and hung up with a resolute click.
Eeyore award: depression and finding happiness
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar (London 1963)