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Book of the month: The Bell Jar

Written in the early 1960s, and Sylvia Plath’s only full-length prose work, The Bell Jar is an autobiographical novel that relates the childhood longings and descent into madness of Plath’s alter-ego, Esther Greenwood.

The story relates a year in the life of Esther Greenwood, who seems to have a rosy future in front of her. Having won a competition to guest edit a magazine, she travels to New York.Esther’s time in New York heralds the start of a slow mental breakdown; she slowly loses interest in all the hopes and dreams.


Perhaps the single greatest achievement of Plath’s novel is its outright commitment to truthfulness. Despite the fact that the novel has all the power and control of Plath’s best poetry, it does not skew or transform her experiences in order to make her illness more or less dramatic.
The Bell Jar takes the reader inside the experience of madness like very few books before or since.
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