Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blog Swap Book Review: The Bell Jar

Hello, dear readers! Please welcome the lovely Becky of Love Everyday Life. She is a fellow bibliophile - if only we lived closer to each other so we could chat about books over a warm drink from Starbucks. We randomly both started reading "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath last month, so decided to do a little blog swap to share our views on the book.

Without further ado, here's Becky's take on the book! Hop over to her blog to see what I thought of the book!

My rating: 4 stars

If I had to describe this book in two words, they would be heartbreakingly beautiful. This book is heavy, (it is Sylvia Plath), but it’s written so well, and it’s the first time in awhile where what I’ve been reading has carried over into my every day life.

The story paces itself slower than other novels and I got swept up in the almost lethargic lifestyle Plath creates for her characters. This is not a bad thing – it’s like moving to a small town (after living in a big city), and adjusting to a new pace – one where you savor things and take your time.

I was hooked even from the first paragraph. I love the main character Esther. She struggles with depression as the story goes on, but there were a lot of things she was thinking that I related to. This excerpt is long, but bear with me.

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree…From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” (Pg. 77)

What an image! I don’t know about you, but I’ve definitely felt like this at times. So many ideas, so many things to consider, to potentially be – at some point you have to reach out and choose a fig. As I’m getting into my later twenties I’m wondering if this decade in my life is all about choosing figs. From boyfriend to husband, from one job to the next, I find myself coming back to that fig tree wondering what I should select next. There are so many things out there I might want to do, but it’s about finding the courage to reach for them and make them your own.

I know I didn’t tell you a lot about the plot of the novel, but this story just touched me in so many ways I thought this was more important to share.

What do you think readers? Have you read this book? Did you like it or dislike it? Have you ever found yourself looking at a fig tree? Did you reach for one or are you still waiting to choose?

(Photo found here)


J said...

Seriously Lisa I wish you lived in my city or vise versa so we could use each other as running buddies and communicate on that so we would be safe. I think its a good idea to use your brother and really its no extra effort on his part but you never know!

Lisa-Marie said...

This is a very good review. I read the bell jar when I was quite young (compared to most people), I was about 14, and I read it again when I was about 18. I read it once a year or so now.

It is one of those books where you are completely pulled into willing the character to be ok, as she is so 'real'. Obviously part of that is that some of Esther's character reflects Plath's.

Having dealt with a (small) period of depression of my own, and lived with a mentally ill parent, I found much of it to resonate quite strongly.

I think the lesson it teaches is that we must push on, and grasp at opportunity, even if it does teach it in a tragic way.

qwerkyqook said...

I love your description of Plath's writing. I agree! This book is really remarkable. It pulls you in, slowly but surely. The plot is in many ways irrelevant. But Plath skillfully describes Esther's personality, and later, her pathology. I think it's a very important read.

Becky said...

Thanks again for swapping Lisa - this was so much fun!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I loved Becky's review. I had also tagged the Fig Tree section of the book as well as it really resonated with me.

I thought this book was a great read - certainly not light, but worth checking out.

Thanks for swapping, Becky!

Nora said...

Can't say I've ever read a single thing by Miss Plath but I can relate to the fig tree; it's funny that you write about this because just last week my friend was relating our lives to trees & vines and how sometimes we aren't sure which way we are going to grow or what it's going to look like but we wind up with vines all around our tree from the various paths we've chosen. I think it's similar to the fig concept.

I've tasted some figs, chosen a few for good but the others, well, the others are waiting to show themselves to me, I suppose.

Based upon this review I have to admit I'm curious about the book!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I actually did try to read this book last summer - I took it out from the library - but I couldn't get through it before it was due back. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy reading it WHEN I was reading it but it was one of those books I would set down and forget about, ya know?

Maybe I will have to try reading it again this summer!

Little Fish said...

The Bell Jar is one of my all time fave books! Great review!

Mandy said...

Love this take on the book. The imagae Plath creates with the fig tree is paramount to our 20 somethings. I often find myself wondering which I should choose and what I should be. Its a complicated process.

Emily Jane said...

Great review - now I am definitely interested in the book! I just got my bookswap book this week :)

Abby and Ryan said...

I loved both book reviews! Wow, I really am enticed to read this book.

Had my 1st day of psych clinicals today, where much of my day was spent sitting in group therapy of people hospitalized for depression, bipolar, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.

So reading this review AFTER that is very close to home to me today!

I love the analogy to the bell jar.

Leanne said...

The Bell Jar is one of those influential books every girl should read in high school or college. I absolutely love that quote about the figs.

This is a fabulous review of Plath's writing and how the book "carries over into real life" like you said. I might just have to pull it off my shelf and read it again.

Lesli said...

The Bell Jar is one of my most favorite books ever. It is a book I like to re-read every few years or so. I think it is time to re-read it NOW.