The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Story of Esther Greenwood, an American college student who spends the summer working in New York; as the job comes to an end and plans for the next term don't work out, she falls into depression and is committed to a psychiatric institution.

This didn't turn out as I expected; it was written in the first person but with seemingly a lot less insight into her condition than is found in The Noonday Demon or The Scent of Dried Roses. By the end of the book it's not at all clear that Esther's illness is behind her, and her pronouncements of feeling better ring a bit hollow. The book takes quite a while to get to the suicide attempt which results in her being admitted to hospital, but what is quite impressive is how the depression steals up on her. In fact depression seems like the wrong word, since she doesn't really seem to be desperately unhappy: it's more a sense of detachment and apathy.

The descriptions of the hospital and treatments are very plausible, including the ECT which does eventually make her feel better, although there is a definite ambiguity to the "cure".

What did surprise me, considering Plath was a poet, was that the prose didn't seem especially good. It wasn't bad, but I'd expected it to be of a noticeably high standard.

Completed : 22-Jun-2004

Released with BookCrossing id : 659-1812890

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