The bell jar
Among many other things, a coming-of-age novel where a flickering sense of determination sets the protagonist off in a downwards spiral into the dark.
It took me 20 years of anticipation to borrow and read this novel and my expectations of the modest number of pages were high. I also didn't want to wait too many years to read it, since the main character Esther Greenwood is such a young person and it can be read as a bildungsroman.
What to say about such an iconic novel, by an author with such a unique voice? One aspect that I appreciated was to experience the mid-20th Century in fashion, infrastructure and everyday life. I can smell the typewriter ink, feel the car upholstery and hear the clicking of the telephone dials while reading.
There is a theme of duality in The bell jar that I found interesting. Despite Esther's inability to commit to any of her dreams and plans for the future she often expresses determination in the moment. Even if her mind can quickly be changed it is most determined for a few precious minutes or seconds. Her many dreams are of both the untamed and prosaic kind and while she cannot wait for her life to start, she keeps coming to the conclusion that she cannot bear to go on living.
Excellent prose and poetry
I had recently done an academic analysis of some of the poems in Sylvia Plath's masterpiece Ariel and, as it turns out, I am in awe of her prose as well. I recognise themes and details that she incorporates in both works. I recommend this book to anyone who does not feel 100 percent grown-up and, if you have the tiniest fragment of an interest in poetry, look up Ariel too.