Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Bell Jar

by Sylvia Plath

I feel a little weird saying so about this modern classic tale of mental illness and attempted suicide, but I found it to be a quick and breezy read. Sylvia Plath's only published novel is of a modest length, but the subject matter (based somewhat on her own experience, which is why she never meant for the book to be published in the United States) is intense and convincingly depicted. The easy readability must come from the protagonist's casual, conversational, relatable voice, which is also a factor contributing to the book's verisimilitude.

If I owned more books, instead of just borrowing them from the library, I'd put The Bell Jar on the shelf next to The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal. Both are about young people struggling to understand their place in the world and to reconcile their own feelings and aspirations with society's expectations. Despite being written in 1946 and 1963, respectively, neither is dated (except in some details) and both speak to the angst and alienation felt at one time or another by most young adults.

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