The Bell Jar is very readable prose but, boy, does it tackle a difficult to read topic. Esther is a young woman who seems to have it all but struggles with mental health issues. It’s well known that this novel is based on Sylvia Plath’s own experiences and she originally published it under a pseudonym to protect the people in her life she had done little to disguise in the book.
This is definitely not a book to read if you are at a difficult point in your own life. But it does offer those who don’t suffer from mental health issues a glimpse into the struggles of those who do and those who do suffer from mental health issues an opportunity to know that they aren’t alone.
As a novel, it’s a little bit all over the place. I would almost class it as one of those novels you need to read so you can know what everybody is talking about – but then I class Twilight and The Da Vinci Code in that category and I don’t want to do it a disservice. This is modern literature not pop fiction and certainly not for everyone.
I feel like this could have been a great modern American novel if an editor had taken the trouble to develop it more fully with the author but as it stands, it seems full of unreached potential.
I would recommend giving it a go but don’t bother if you are looking for a well-developed plot and a nice, neat ending.
*First published 12 May 2013 on Goodreads