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Bell Jar [Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Sylvia Plath
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 16 1997
"Esther Greenwood's account of her years in the bell jar is as clear and readable as it is witty and disturbing - [this] is not a potboiler, nor a series of ungrateful caricatures; it is literature."
-The New York Times

"McDormand gives a sensitive, intimate performance. Herdry, ironic tone, covering up for an undercurrent of fear, perfectly capturesthe character of Esther."
-Billboard Magazine

The Bell Jar is a classic of American literature, with over two million copies sold in this country. This extraordinary work chronicles the crackup of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful -- but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time. Step by careful step, Sylvia Plath takes us with Esther through a painful month in New York as a contest-winning junior editor on a magazine, her increasingly strained relationships with her mother and the boy she dated in college, and eventually, devastatingly, into the madness itself. The reader is drawn into her breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies.

Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is rare in any novel. It points to the fact that The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical work about Plath's own summer of 1953, when she was a guest editor at Mademoiselle and went through a breakdown. It reveals so much about the sources of Sylvia Plath's own tragedy that its publication was considered a landmark in literature.

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From Amazon

Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel. The Bell Jar tells the story of a gifted young woman's mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. The real Plath committed suicide in 1963 and left behind this scathingly sad, honest and perfectly-written book, which remains one of the best-told tales of a woman's descent into insanity. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This 25th-anniversary edition of Plath's posthumous autobiographical novel includes a new foreword by the book's original editor, Frances McCullough; biographical notes; and eight previously unpublished drawings by Plath. Bravo to HarperCollins for putting all this together at a reasonable price.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Gogs
Don't be put off by the book's reputation as the story of a depressed not-quite-a-woman-not-a-girl protagonist--and certainly don't be put off by the fact that Sylvia Plath died very soon after writing the book. Although she is known primarily for her poetry, I've often thought that Bell Jar captured both her skill as a sharp poetess, but also her lesser-known sense of humor. The Bell Jar involves suicide attempts and mental institutions, but more importantly, it doesn't dwell on tragedy so much as cut through it. Plath's photographic depiction of what it is like to be thrust into adulthood and all the other things that aren't in childhood are equally important and remind the reader that the things that we experience are neither so beautiful nor ugly as they are absurd.
Whether or not you've ever been depressed, the Bell Jar captures not only the fear of nothing ever changing, but also the greater fear of things being different, twin processes which are, to me, at the heart of depression.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent June 4 2007
By kimmy
The Bell Jar deals with many of the political and social issues of the 1950s, such as life within an anti-communist country. However, in my opinion, the most pressing issue is the conflicting view of female sexuality. In the novel, Sylvia Plath presents many different types of stereotypical women ranging from the then strongly encouraged role of a devoted housewife, to the sexually permissive female characters, to the successful career centered type woman. Esther Greenwood, like many girls going through adolescence, has a difficult choice to make: which type of women should she become, while having to keep in mind the sacrifices she will have to make for either paths of her life? What makes this interesting is how each one of these woman represents a different type of female empowerment and has come to influence Esther's perception in one way or another.

Sylvia Plath uses powerful imagery throughout the novel to help the reader gain a better understanding of the intense emotions a young woman goes through while trying to find her identity. I recommend this novel to all women, as it addresses many relatable issues women face when living under the current complex societal values and pressures.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 50 REVIEWER
Esther Greenwood, a college student from Massachusetts wins a dream assignment, with eleven other students, on a big New York fashion magazine. Esther is vulnerable and impressionable and is unable to enjoy her assignment; some of her experiences frighten and disorient her. Esther does not fit in with either of her friends: the rebellious Doreen or the conformist Betsy.

Returning home, Esther finds that she has not been accepted into a writing course she applied for, and this leads her to consider what choices she has in life. Thus begins a descent into depression, and a very personal form of madness.

It is easy to see autobiographical parallels with Sylvia Plath's own life. Perhaps too easy, and this can detract from a broader message of identity and belonging, which so many of us experience and can relate to. I first read part of this novel as a teenager, almost 40 years ago. I read it then as an autobiographical novel which, while it raised many of the questions I was considering myself, had no comfortable answers. Coming back to the novel now, I see that I wasn't looking past the tragedy of Sylvia Plath's own death to appreciate the writing for its own sake. While Ms Plath took her own life at age 30, that this was a (tragic) choice, not an inevitable outcome.

So, why read this novel now? It was published almost 50 years ago and while aspects of the setting reflect that, the underlying search for identity and purpose are timeless. For me, this is a novel worth reading twice.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Bell Jar May 1 2002
Are you the type of person that doesn't like to read that much? Do books bore you? Do you dread reading books assigned by your teachers at school? Is it hard for you to pick a book of your choice to read? If you answered yes to those questions, you might want to consider stopping by your local library or bookstore to purchase The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Though this book isn't a hot new release it's just as fresh as the books of today. It enters the mind of teenagers of today, which is good that teenagers are able to relate with the main character, Esther Greenwood. With all of the trials and tribulations that she goes through, it's almost a sure thing that readers could find at least one thing in common with her.
The fact that the author continued page after page to throw all these problems at Esther could be considered an issue. Some reader's might think that maybe it was too much. Though if one were to see things in another light they could see it as the problems being stepping stones in life. Esther was climbing up but in reality she knew that sometimes you just have to start over for the best. Sylvia Plath proved in this book that you can fall rock bottom in your life and still be able to be on top once more.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia Plath at her Best March 16 2002
By Soma
Before reading "The Bell Jar," I read "Ariel," Plath's collection of poems that really address the climax of her depression with such great poems like "Daddy" and "Lady Lazarus." But it was only after I read "The Bell Jar," that I truly appreciated Plath's genius and sophistication as a writer. One of the reasons Plath was such a genius was her command of the English language. "The Bell Jar" does not read like a novel, but more like prose, which made the book a quick read.
"The Bell Jar" tells the story of Ester Greenwood, a young woman interning at a woman's magazine in New York City. The reader fully witnesses Ester's decent into depression and her institutionalization in a mental hospital. Like her poetry, "The Bell Jar" is semi - autobiographical and very emotional. Plath also leaves the ending of the novel ambiguous, I do not want to give the ending away but I will say this, do not expect any sort of resolution.
All in all, I would recommend this book to Plath fans and those who appreciate a clever, wonderfully written piece of literature.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars but I did not like the book at all
The product worked perfectly on my Kindle, but I did not like the book at all. I enjoyed the first 15% but nothing after that.
Published 2 months ago by Stephanie Wong
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as great as I had expected
The title pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. There's always been positive buzz about The Bell Jar, but I found it rather slow and dull. Read more
Published 17 months ago by TheTechGirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
This was a gift for my daughter for Christmas and what she asked for and so it was the perfect gift.
Published 20 months ago by Sharon P
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read
A different sort of story to read these days; old traditional ways, and the non-acceptance of depression. A dark read, but also interesting.
Published on July 11 2010 by Booklover
4.0 out of 5 stars A look a depression
A clasic I recomend reading. if you didn't already know plath published this book under a sudo name and two weeks later committed suicide. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2009 by Amy Sinclair
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This was the first book we read in our book club and we gave it five stars! When reading this keep in my the 'semi-autobiographical' nature of the story. Read more
Published on April 22 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating and Real
Read it through in less than a few days and could not, would not put it down. The Bell Jar allowed me to see into the depth of the character's feelings and mind. Read more
Published on April 6 2004 by "bokchoygurl"
3.0 out of 5 stars Had to see what all the hype was for myself
Well first, lets cut to the chase, the book is not as bad as a three star, but not worthy of a four star either. I'd give it a passing grade of 72%. Read more
Published on March 5 2004 by Huff Daddy
5.0 out of 5 stars bell jar
i thought this book was really good because it showed the world through Ester's eyes. Some poeple say that it is just a depressing book, but they have obivously never been... Read more
Published on June 21 2003 by evanescent
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic Catcher
The story can be compared to Catcher In The Rye in that the main characters of both stories are similarly out of place in society. Read more
Published on June 12 2003 by Michael
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