I say: This is my second time reading The Bell Jar, mostly because when I was having a discussion about it with a friend I started doubting my feelings about it. I was saying how underwhelmed I had been by it; comparing it, of course, to her poetry, but my friend was being adamant that it was a great novel.
So I read it again.
And I was underwhelmed – again.
Or should that be ‘still’?
In all honesty and fairness, I don’t really have any criticism of this novel, other than the fact that it just leaves me indifferent. Although I understand and recognise its importance, it fails to leave an impact. There is nothing wrong with the characters – they all seem real enough – and I sort of find Esther endearing and really feel for her through her struggle with depression. Plath, having experienced most of what Esther goes through, does a great job of describing the slow decline, the rock bottom and ultimately the slow rise back to normalcy.
It’s all very neatly packaged – and I think that is what’s bothering me.
I love Plath’s poetry, and to go from that to reading the prose in The Bell Jar, I feel cheated (for lack of a better word). I’m used to strong emotions, crafty metaphors, magical phrasing, and there is just nothing of that here. I’ve always maintained that, in my experience, great poets write
bad not as good novels and vice versa, so it kind of feels nice to have that reaffirmed the second time around.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad novel, and I would recommend everyone to read it; if not for the prose, then at least for the subject matter at hand. It’s just that when you’re used to Plath’s poetry, this is nowhere near as genius.