[TW: discussion of depression and suicide ahead]
Do you ever read a book that just feels important, even if you don’t quite realise why at the time?
Obviously The Bell Jar is regarded by many as a hugely important book, whether for its value as a historical record detailing the state of things in the 1950s or as a profound look inside its author Sylvia Plath’s head, or because of its golden place as a quintessential piece of feminist literature. Or just because of personal relevance, as it is to people I know who have read it. I suppose it’s just the kind of book that affects you, and whatever form that takes varies from reader to reader.
Firstly, it’s fairly easy to see why it’s almost the go-to feminist novel of the 20th century: The Bell Jar is basically an elegant list of all the things that can go wrong in a woman’s life, because of or exacerbated by the prejudices in modern society. The fact that a lot of it is still relevant and recognisable now, some 53 years after it was published (and roughly 63 after it was set, as it’s written looking back on the 1950s), rather explains why it’s stood the test of time, as well as being a little frightening. Continue reading