The Bell Jar

  • by Sylvia Plath
  • Narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal
  • 7 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The Bell Jar chronicles the crack-up of Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful but slowly going under - maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

When Dying is Hard But Living is Harder

I spent a year and a half, sitting in a rocking chair, reading the Harry Potter books over and over again, trying not to scream, trying not to cry, with something like sandpaper rasping the inside of my skull to pulp. Shock treatments were advised. So I can totally relate to Esther's journey in Sylvia Plath's towering achievement in "The Bell Jar," which has such life breathed into it by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
The first part is a series of experiences and memories Esther has, some quirky, some devastating, all deeply-felt that lead to her life coming apart piece by piece, as though a jigsaw puzzle was losing its parts but you can barely notice it with all that's going on in her heart and in her head. After a particularly violent scene, however, and after finishing with a stint in New York and going home, she really falls apart.
Plath writes some vivid and heart-felt prose here. Esther can't sleep, and her decline shows she loses even the ability to write (yes, in the grand sense: No, no more poetry for Esther, but even in the more prosaic sense: She can't even form the letters to write a sentence).
And this is where maybe dying isn't sought so much as the desperate desire to be dead. It's a tough, tough listen but Gyllenhaal knows the material backwards/forwards/sideways, you name it, and she reads with love, tenderness, bitterness, and later, when Esther is getting help, scorn.
This is a great listen. I didn't know you could get it for free. But I'm glad I'll have it forever in my Library because it's a Five-Star listen, a keeper for sure. Definitely worth the time, and I certainly don't regret the credit.
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- Gillian "SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!"

Beautifully written, brilliantly performed.

Maggie Gyllenhaal captures the depressed essence of Sylvia Plath in her stellar performance of The Bell Jar. The story yields what seems to be a raw and deeply personal account of a person's gradual slip into mental illness and the struggle to break free of its grasp and the accompanying social stigma. Reading this book you feel as though you are inside the mind of a "crazy" person, all the while finding out how rational - and even sane - crazy can be.
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- Debra W.

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-02-2016
  • Publisher: HarperAudio