July 27th, 2011

Book 7: The Bell Jar

Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Genre: Classic and Chick Lit
Pages: 216
Books: 7/50 Pages: 2498/15000

Synopsis: Esther Greenwood lands something that most any aspiring writer would kill for: a month-long, paid position with a well-known mainstream fashion magazine in New York City. Not just a paid job, but also all the perks most anyone could ever ask for: all expenses paid, including a stay in a lavish hotel, great networking potential, and goodies galore from various advertisers. Esther soon learns, however that she, also a student as a prestigious all woman's college, doesn't exactly fit in with the world surrounding her and the other girls awarded the prize; that one of superficiality, flawless beauty, gossip, designer clothing and smugness abound. Things don't exactly get better either when Esther starts to feel like an outcast on her chasing of her true dream: to be a novelist. Told in first-person, and based in many ways on the author's own life.

My take: This one took me absolutely forever to finish, purely because my mom, dad, and I have been so damn busy with getting ready for our big move, as well as setting up our new house; it looks fabulous, by the way. Anyways, this book is another on my quest I picked up to not only gain more than a working competency in classic literature, but to also expand my knowledge and understanding of other cultures, demographics, and other points in history by reading fiction that covers just that. So, here is my first delve into the arena of Women's Literature, written by someone who was and still is one of the prominent figures within the genre.

As someone who once had an undying obsession with wanting to launch a career in writing, I can really relate to those particular hopes and aspirations of Esther Greenwood. I have also, in several points in my life, felt a lot like the misfit within groups of various sizes; even in ones where the others within it are supposed to be in the same boat as me. One that mainly comes to mind, in this regard, was when I took a creative writing class while attending community college, only to come away feeling small, stupid, and that I ought to just throw in the towel right then and there. In this way, I felt a personal connection with Esther.

The character is very believable, as are the conflicts that she encounters with men, the other girls staying at the hotel with her who are also working for the month at the magazine. Right from the get-go, this book had me hooked, but became harder and harder to put down as the story progressed. That is, as Esther spins further and further into her downward spiral. I would definitely recommend this one to most anyone.

Grade: A

On a side note: Read some bits and pieces about this book online, and the autobiographical notes at the back of my copy of the book. Some of these took it upon themselves to compare this book to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye; Esther Greenwood to Holden Caulfield. Personally, I just don't see this. CITR is about a kid who just doesn't care about his studies or his future. Bell Jar is about a woman who aims high to achieve her dreams, only to be smacked down by whatever forces are against her. Also, there is a serious difference between clinical depression, which Esther undergoes various treatments for, and being a whiny little twit who hates practically everyone. Just some thoughts of mine.