CURRENT BOOK:  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Before starting the novel, I read the introduction explaining that the author suffered from mental illness and committed suicide at the age of 30, so I was able to read from this perspective and that the novel is largely autobiographical.  The title, which I was curious about, refers to the main character’s sense of being disconnected or shut off from the people, places, and things around her.

The novel seems to have two parts, the first involving the main character’s experiences in New York City during a summer program for young college women, and the second involving her experiences after she returns home, becomes suicidal, and is ultimately institutionalized.  I had a hard time understanding if there were particular events which triggered her depression, however, if depression can be largely rooted in a chemical imbalance in the brain then maybe life experiences would not necessarily be as much of a factor.  It does seem like perhaps she had a kind of quarter-life crisis where she was feeling the pressures to take on the yoke of adulthood but was unsure what direction she wanted her life to take.

I found the novel to be engaging and I felt I was very much able to get inside the main character’s head, and was especially intrigued by the experiences of being institutionalized at the time (when medical science had not yet made as many strides as far as talk / cognitive behavior therapy and medications, and still relied heavily on shock treatments), although this was from the less-than-mentally-clear perspective of the main character.

While I wouldn’t exactly rave over the novel, I think I liked it best out of those I have read so far from the list, and after hearing about Sylvia Plath and this novel but never being required to read any of her works, I am glad I finally did and I can see why she is an important voice among female writers.


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