There is a lot of chat in Hustvedt’s new novel. Erik is a psychotherapist with some difficult clients, he’s just divorced, and is falling for the young single mum, Miranda, in the flat below.
His sister, Inga, was married to a famous writer, Max, who has recently died, and they chat about what it’s like to be in love with a writer and how you kind of fall in love with them through their writing.
And then there is Miranda’s ex, who is stalking her but using the surreptitious photos he takes in an art exhibition, which kind of makes it OK. And Inga is sort of being blackmailed by one of Max’s old lovers, which is distressing.
This all, of course, happens in New York – mostly in Brooklyn – as they each weigh in with intelligent theories on the nature of their own dreams and on the morality of their own stories. And the miracle is that Hustvedt manages to make her characters engaging and her novel absorbing rather than irritating; this examining of our inner lives is what she does so well and makes reading her feel like such an intimate, personal treat.
This is a short review for sure, however there is more to come. I read this book with great trepidation since I did not know what to expect from this writer. I had not read, “What I Loved” and had no clue about her other works. However after reading this one, I cannot wait to read more of what she has written and what is waiting to come. A gem of a book.
I happened to read The Bell Jar for my book group discussion for the month of November and instantly fell in love with the book. More than anything else I think it was Esther and her descriptions that absolutely gripped me from the very first word.
While reading the book, many times I tried to question my own sanity and what I was going through and quite surprisingly this book I felt dealt with so many issues that we all go through some or the other time in our lives. Esther’s struggle with issues and people around her gave me an inkling into what was I facing with people around me. It’s not more of madness than being sane that made me love this book and what it stands for – probably suffocation, probably the need to get away so many times when we are unable to do so. The probability of meeting someone nice and sensitive which never really works that way.
Grappling with oneself and situations can be quite a thing to undertake. Most of the times, many of us choose to push things under the rug without paying attention to our thoughts and problems. Esther on the other hand chooses to look inside and find answers which probably is best summed up in the following lines from the book,
“How did I know that someday–at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere–the bell jar, with it’s stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?”
This quote becomes all the more poignant when one discovers that only a month after The Bell Jar, her first novel, was published, Sylvia Plath took her own life. One wonders if things would have been different had she lived today. All in all The Bell Jar is one of the books in my life, which I will never let go…