|Sylvia Plath in 1957|
The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath, had a profound influence on me when I read it in my teens. At that time I had never heard of Sylvia Plath, and I read the book because a classmate had chosen it for a book report and it sounded interesting. I'm glad, as this blogger, Fatema Ahmed, is too, that I read it without knowing anything about Plath or her work. There is so much baggage around that whole story now, her husband, her suicide, that it is almost impossible to come to her work fresh - unless you have never heard of her or of Ted Hughes. I read the book again some years later and thought parts of it were very funny, which I had not thought the first time. I still have my paperback copy from that time - I quite often pass books on, but not this one - and its cover is the one on the left. Fab, I think you will agree. I was utterly horrified when I saw the cover on the right, which has been produced for the 50th anniversary
When I first read The Bell Jar I did not know anything about depression either. I'm glad to say I still don't, not really, in terms of personal experience, though I have lived with someone who suffers from it and have thus seen it at close hand from the outside. This book should be required reading for anyone who has encountered depression in any way, and that means most people.
I hope a great many people discover Sylvia Plath and her work this year, half a century after her suicide. Even the manner of it (gas oven) is ancient history now.