The Bell Jar was the first book chosen by my new book group. I apologise for the length of time it has taken me to write this review (more than a month – I have just posted the review for the second book group choice!), but I was so busy with the Bookers that this review kept getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.
The Bell Jar was originally published in 1963, just a few weeks before the author committed suicide. I had avoided this book in the past, as I thought it would be a dark, depressing book, but I was pleasantly surprised. The book does deal with some difficult subject matter, but it never felt oppressive. I found myself smiling at several sections, and never felt sad.
The book begins with Esther Greenwood, a young woman, heading to New York to begin an internship with a New York Fashion magazine. Despite being set in 1953 the writing felt very modern. The majority of this section could easily have happened yesterday and I was immediately drawn to her.
Instead of enjoying her new life Esther quickly becomes overwhelmed by it. She spirals into a depression and makes several feeble, almost comical, attempts at suicide. The treatment she receives for her depression is a stark reminder of how much mental health care has improved in the last 50 years. There were also some interesting sections showing how life for women has changed over the years.
This book was easy to read, and due to the large number of discussion points, perfect for book groups.
Have you read The Bell Jar?
Did you find it depressing?