Things I knew about The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath before reading it
- It’s by Sylvia Plath
- If you want to fake someone’s suicide, put a copy of this book on their bedside table with bits underlined
- She was married to Ted Hughes
- She killed herself (head in oven?)
- She left out bread and jam for the kids when she killed herself
- Gwyneth Paltrow cycled an old-fashioned bike near the library here I was revising while pretending to be Sylvia Plath
Things I did not know
- Where/when it was set
- Anything about what happens
- Whether the character actually does kill herself
I enjoyed this more than I expected to. It is quite describey, and Plath uses a lot of adjective phrases. I’m not sure of the precise term for them, but the first page alone has “google-eyed” and “country-wet” and “mirage-grey”. Too many of these drive me mad (see Suite Francaise and the pre-war parts of Birdsong) but in this case it added a tangible feel to the descriptions without making me impatient for action.
I would have happily read some more of the story of a college-aged girl in the 50s (?) who has a summer internship on a magazine, even without the rest.
I liked that there was no attempt to explain WHY she felt as she did. She just did. That’s what mental illness is like sometimes. It’s not always caused by a childhood trauma. It’s sometimes just how things are.