TRIGGER WARNING: Mild spoilers and mention of suicide and self-harm
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is the story of Esther Greenwood-a beautiful, brilliant, and an intelligent woman falling into depression. The novel takes you inside the mind of the protagonist and gives detailed insight about what it is like to succumb to the mental illness.
I had first heard about Sylvia Plath when I was very young. Fascinated by her personal life and with a strong urge to be one of those who had read her work, I picked up this book in my first year of under-graduation. I could only get through the first two chapters before abandoning it. I wondered why people are nuts about her work. I couldn’t relate to the novel at all.
The second time I picked up this book was when a close friend of mine asked (read coaxed) me to read this book. And I could not be more grateful. I don’t think I have ever felt this understood in my entire life. This is the story of a girl who has been an overachiever throughout her life but is now seeing her life falling apart in front of her eyes. And she is not able to do anything about it. She is just a spectator. The way Plath articulated the feeling of falling into depression is very real. It is hard to put those feelings into words. She gives simple yet powerful descriptions. Her writing prowess makes it possible for the reader to emphatically engage with the characters. I think what also gives character to the book is the fact that Plath was going through the same feelings as her protagonist. The Bell Jar is also touted as her semi-autobiographical work. For me, this book is special because it made me feel less lonely.
Since the book speaks about self-harm and suicide, I would not advise reading it if you are not in a good mental space because the descriptions could be triggering. Other than that, I highly recommend reading it.