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Book Review: Little Women

Plot:

Generations of readers young and old, male and female, have fallen in love with the March sisters of Louisa May Alcott’s most popular and enduring novel, Little Women. Here are talented tomboy and author-to-be Jo, tragically frail Beth, beautiful Meg, and romantic, spoiled Amy, united in their devotion to each other and their struggles to survive in New England during the Civil War.

It is no secret that Alcott based Little Women on her own early life. While her father, the freethinking reformer and abolitionist Bronson Alcott, hobnobbed with such eminent male authors as Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Louisa supported herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant. But she soon discovered she could make more money writing. Little Women brought her lasting fame and fortune, and far from being the “girl’s book” her publisher requested, it explores such timeless themes as love and death, war and peace, the conflict between personal ambition and family responsibilities, and the clash of cultures between Europe and America.

Review:

I’m of two minds on this novel as I currently review this. I forgot I had read it a LONG time ago and that basically tells me everything I needed to know about this book.

It was so unremarkable that I completely forgot I read it.

Yes, I get that this novel is trying to cover the basics of coming of age in that era however I found this novel (and audiobook) to be quite slow, yes it skips years at times but I found it difficult to follow as it was not of interest, too many discussions of coming of age. Perhaps if I had read this when I was younger I would have appreciated it more. However, as a young adult in her twenties this novel did not keep my interest I am afraid.

Is it good?

Yes. Very good. Sometimes it’s even amusing and heartwarming. However, this novel is not for me. Time for some historic reads to catch my interest.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Bell Jar

Plot:

Sylvia Plath’s shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. 

Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.

Review:

I only found about this classic from “The Gilmore Girls” TV show because Rory was reading it and I was curious enough to Google it. I’m glad I did because I probably wouldn’t have picked it up then.

This novel is relatable to those who have experienced/experience depression and feelings of not knowing what to do- feeling lost, inadequate and defeated. 

This novel was emotive through describing facets and experiences of depression. It describes the descending of mental illness, particularly that of depression, in a young woman.

Esther Greenwood, is a young woman from Boston, and is granted an internship at an elite magazine therefore she moves to NYC. It is clear she has it all: designer clothes, dining, and handsome men doting on her. But Esther finds none of these things exciting and struggles to fit in.

Upon returning to Massachusetts, Esther was told that she was not accepted to a writing course she had hoped for. She attempts to write a novel however this did not help.

Eventually, Esther has sunk deep into depression. Sylvia Plath’s writing style gives a small glimpse into the reality of depression and what it can provoke people to do, suicide attempts being one of them. As the novel is based on Plath’s life, it is clear that Esther is trying to escape a world she feels unwelcome in, like that of her author. Esther’s mother prompts her to see a psychiatrist. The doctor recommends shock therapy—a traumatic experience—and she is sent to a mental institution.

As Esther’s mental state worsens—she finds it impossible to read, sleep, write, or eat

Her depression is described as a “feeling of being trapped under a bell jar, unable to breathe.” After a few suicide attempts and her presumed kidnapping. Later on, in the mental institution, therapy uses the metaphorical bell jar, and the reader can see Esther beginning to act more like herself, as she’s given different freedoms, like staying overnight with her friend.

What I found to be more heartbreaking than the novel itself was that its writer, Sylvia Plath. As she had committed suicide at the age of thirty. The ending of The Bell Jar made me think she had overcame this however clearly something must have happened during the time leading up to this. I think she was not going to kill herself but something at the end must have triggered her as she did want to be here.

Although it’s recognised a classic, The Bell Jar deserves more attention by far; in fact, I would love to see a good movie adaption that does this novel justice.

I think this is now my favourite novel, I love Plath’s writing style so much.

5/5 Stars