Synopses & Reviews
The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under--maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experiece as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.
"An enchanting book. The author wears her scholarship with grace, and the amazing story she has to tell is recounted with humor and understanding." Atlantic Monthly
"A fine novel, as bitter and remorseless as her last poems--the kind of book Salinger's Fanny might have written about herself ten years later, if she had spent those ten years in Hell." The New York Times Book Review
"A special poignance...a special force, a humbling power, because it shows the vulnerability of people of hope and good will." Newsweek
"By turns funny, harrowing, crude, ardent and artless. Its most notable quality is an astonishing immediacy, like a series of snapshots taken at high noon." Time
This extraordinary work--echoing Plath's own experiences as a rising writer/editor in the early 1950s--chronicles the nervous breakdown of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, successful, but slowly going under, and maybe for the last time.
About the Author
To this day, Sylvia Plath's writings continue to inspire and provoke. Her only published novel, The Bell Jar,
remains a classic of American literature, and The Colossus
(1965), Crossing the Water
(1971), Winter Trees
(1971), and The Collected Poems
(1981) have placed her among this century's essential American poets.
Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932, the first child of Aurelia and Otto Plath. When Sylvia was eight years old, her father died--an event that would haunt her remaining years--and the family moved to the college town of Wellesley. By high school, Plath's talents were firmly established; in fact, her first published poem had appeared when she was eight. In 1950, she entered Smith College, where she excelled academically and continued to write; and in 1951 she won Mademoiselle magazine's fiction contest. Her experiences during the summer of 1953--as a guest editor at Mademoiselle in New York City and in deepening depression back home--provided the basis for The Bell Jar. Near that summer's end, Plath nearly succeeded in killing herself. After therapy and electroshock, however, she resumed her academic and literary endeavors. Plath graduated from Smith in 1955 and, as a Fulbright Scholar, entered Newnham College, in Cambridge, England, where she met the British poet, Ted Hughes. They were married a year later. After a two-year tenure on the Smith College faculty and a brief stint in Boston, Plath and Hughes returned to England, where their two children were born.
Plath had been successful in placing poems in several prestigious magazines, but suffered repeated rejection in her attempts to place a first book. The Colossus appeared in England, however, in the fall of 1960, and the publisher, William Heinemann, also bought her first novel. By June 1962, she had begun the poems that eventually appeared in Ariel. Later that year, separated from Hughes, Plath immersed herself in caring for her children, completing The Bell Jar, and writing poems at a breathtaking pace.
A few days before Christmas 1962, she moved with the children to a London flat. By the time The Bell Jarwas published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, in early 1963, she was in desperate circumstances. Her marriage was over, she and her children were ill, and the winter was the coldest in a century. Early on the morning of February 11, Plath turned on the cooking gas and killed herself.
Plath was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 for her Collected Poems.