The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

ISBN: 9780571226160

This is the most real book I have ever read. It is alive and painfully honest. In this semi-autobiographical novel, Plath portrays what it is to be on the verge of entering into the world, through the eyes of 19-year-old Esther Greenwood, who is working in New York for the summer.
The plot oozes with the sense of needing to find a place in the world, of carving out a niche for oneself in a society that is increasingly success-oriented. Which ‘fig’ should Esther strive for: business woman or wife, mother or linguist, typist or writer? Or pleasing her mother? Each holds promise, but each option seems to close the door to all other possibilities. And each looks so tempting.
This is a work about first times, about putting one’s toe in the water, about self-discovery. It is not a cheery read, especially given Plath’s biography, but the true depiction of emotion and despair is so intricate that it grabs at you like the tendrils of a lonely octopus.
Rating: 9/10

Selected Poems – Christian Rossetti

ISBN (Everyman’s Poetry edition): 0460878204

Christina Rossetti is not a household name among poets, and I don’t understand why. Her poetry is alive with the pain of a broken heart. Not that it’s whiny or depressing; far from it. This is a collection that is full of hope even in the most desolate of internal landscapes.
Born in 1830, Rossetti is best known for writing ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, which happens to be my favourite Christmas carol. This is clearly a lady who knew great pain and loneliness; this is only too evident as you read her verse, and yet her deep faith saturates every line. Rossetti is clearly in love with Jesus, and this brings her great hope as she chooses him above “looking earthward”. This is perhaps most evident in ‘The Convent Threshold’.
Her language is polished to the point of sparkling with the emotion she pours out. Though she uses clipped phrases and the sentiments are subdued, they are veiled only thinly, so that the true feelings in this repressed life glow through the lines like a blush.
Rating: 8/10