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The Bell Jar
Sylvia Plath's haunting and only novel

Sylvia Plath's haunting and only novel tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a talented girl with a prestigious internship on a magazine in New York in 1953. With dreams of becoming a writer and an impressive track record of scholarships and prizes, Esther seems to have it all - and knows she should be 'having the time of her life'. But between the cocktail parties and the piles of manuscripts, unsatisfactory men and the choices ahead, she finds herself spiralling into confusion and depression. As she retreats from the world in despair, she will attempt suicide and find herself in the world of the asylum before finding a way through.

The Bell Jar is both darkly funny and acutely observed, capturing in vivid and witty prose the society Plath inhabited in the 1950s. A modern classic, The Bell Jar is a powerful portrait of a clever young woman with great and varied ambitions, confounded by the hurdles the world puts in her way, as relevant today as when it was written.

Sylvia Plath was born in 1932 in Boston. She studied at Smith College and Cambridge where she met and married Ted Hughes. In 1960 she published The Colossus, a collection of poems. The Bell Jar was published in 1963, under a pseudonym and is Plath's only novel. Her Collected Poems were published in 1981 and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Plath died in 1963.

The reader is Lydia Wilson. Abridged by Sally Marmion for Radio 4's "Book at Bedtime". Produced by Di Speirs.

Episode 1Crabmeat and Caviar.Episode 2 Esther remembers the first time Buddy Willard kissed her, at the Yale Junior Prom.Episode 3Buddy reveals himself and Esther decides to be seduced.Episode 4Buddy offers something new and Esther meets a woman-hater.Episode 5Home from New York, Esther finds herself slipping into lethargy and at a loss.Episode 6Doctor Gordon tries a shocking treatment and Esther takes matters into her own hands.Episode 7A new hospital and a new doctor - finally Esther finds someone who understands.Episode 8With Doctor Nolan's help, Esther can finally fly free.

  1. Episode 1 (13Mb)
  2. Episode 2 (12.9Mb)
  3. Episode 3 (13.1Mb)
  4. Episode 4 (13.1Mb)
  5. Episode 5 (13.2Mb)
  6. Episode 6 (13Mb)
  7. Episode 7 (12.9Mb)
  8. Episode 8 (13.2Mb)

MP3 files hosted by archive.org.