The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
(Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2005, 288 pages)
I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on my drives to work when I saw The Bell Jar and noticed it was narrated by actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. I like her, I like her voice, and I figured she would do the book justice so I grabbed it. This fictionalized account of events in Plath’s life follows the mental breakdown of young Esther Greenwood. We are introduced to her at 19 as she cavorts around New York City for the summer interning at a women’s magazine. Things begin to unravel as her time in New York draws to a close and she returns home. The reader experiences Esther’s breakdown from her perspective as she withdraws further and further from herself, her family, and the outside world. She can think of little else beyond escaping from this life which holds no meaning for her.
It was hard listening to this when you reflect on how much this book mirrored Plath’s life. Gyllenhaal did a great job narrating and while I remember reading this book when I was younger I was somewhat shocked at the things there were brought up in the book, especially given the time it was published (1963). I wanted to read more about Plath when this book was finished. If you’re into classic literature or perhaps haven’t had a chance to read The Bell Jar and are interested in the audiobook version, I’d recommend the one with Maggie Gyllenhaal’s narration. I’m glad I revisited the book.