The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath, Maggie Gyllenhaal, HarperAudio

I know, it's disgraceful that I could call myself a feminist and hadn't read this yet. Well, not entirely, but I totally get it. I finally picked it up as part of my Read Harder list, character with a mental illness.  As with most of my fiction, I actually listened to the book rather than read it and I couldn't be happier about it. I'm sure reading through it would have been perfectly wonderful but there is something about hearing it in Maggie Gyllenhaal's voice that was just fantastic. 

It's easy to see why this is the feminist classic that it is. Esther Greenwood, our protagonist, is embarking upon what sounds like a normal life for the time. The beauty of the book is the way Plath relays her feelings about it which was more like she's staring down the barrel of a life she doesn't want. Looking at it that way just makes sense out of her increasingly difficult time handling it. Her progression into illness was written beautifully. It was so easy to follow her thought process and reasoning for so long that it took me by surprise how far into illness she was when I realized it. Now, I knew the book was about mental illness but the slide appears so easy that it gives me a whole new appreciation for the depression questionnaires I have to fill out every time I'm at the doctor's office. 

Perhaps I just identified too well with her plight. Any girl still could because a lot of the issues she had with things had to do with the balancing of social expectations and gender roles that still won't quit. Would she have been more likely to be able to get a job and a little more freedom today? Sure, but she would probably still hate Buddy Willard and loathe the life that he represents for her. 

I loved every minute of this book and thought it ended on a perfect note. I'm also glad that I waited to read it. I feel like the extra years gave me a better appreciation for it. The book looks back on the character's illness as a nineteen year old. I think if I read it as I looked forward to that timeframe, I wouldn't have understood what her problem was. Looking at the world now, I remember those weights and the way they seemed like weights everyone had to carry. 

Of course, not everyone is as blind to the world as I was at 19, and I can see how teenagers falling in and out depression could relate easily to it. Or teenagers that recognize the weights and how ridiculous they really are. Definitely a must read, hopefully by 40.