Saturday, September 12, 2009

Book Review: Bell Jar

A friend recommended this book to me. It's the first time I read Sylvia Plath.

When I read the short snippet of The Bell Jar on the back cover it made me a bit nervous because it seemed very heavy. A protagonist goes through a mental breakdown and it's semi autobiographical. Didn't I suggest staying away from too much heaviness outside work for case managers? I believe I did. I knew that at times just coming back from work I felt emotionally exhausted. So I hesitated to read it. But I had to read the first page and from there pages flowed and I couldn't stop.

Esther Greenwood is interning for a magazine in New York with a group of other young women and though she feels a bit out of place because she comes from a suburb in Boston and doesn't come from a wealthy family she makes friends and seems to take in the experience of New York. She's on a summer break from university and has a lot of possibilities ahead of her (though this will later haunt her). As the internship continues her mental health slowly becomes more and more unstable. It's not that one experience drives this. Interestingly, the reason behind her breakdown doesn't seem to be focused on. Rather, Plath takes us down the path of what a person feels like as it's happening and it felt authentic to me. I empathized with Esther, though she was quite self centered and self focused for nearly the entire book. Despite this she was a likable protagonist. I also shared some thoughts she brought up. Like the fact that even though so many opportunities stood before her, taking one would mean that all the others would darken. That seemed to overwhelm her.

This book made me think a lot which I love. It was also just like I anticipated, a heavy read. My next book will need to be lighter. The Bell Jar makes the line between sanity and insanity seem like a thread. And of course the two aren’t firm blocks standing side by side marked by a clear fence, nor is the distance between them necessarily vast. My job has also made me think about this.

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