Book Review Backlog: The Bell Jar & Rasputin's Daughter

I'd like to send a big HELLO to all the lovely book bloggers that still decide to take the time to visit my site.  It's been a really crazy couple of weeks, and I've been so exhausted and crunched that I haven't had a moment to sit down and write a review that I felt would do the novels I've recently completed any justice. 

Before you decide to write me off altogether, my absence can be justified, and remains somewhat bittersweet.  Some recent changes in the life of this little bookworm:
  • I got a new job with an awesome company Downtown!
  • I've been training my replacement. (the big suck)
  • I've been visiting a loved one in the hospital. (One strong, beautiful lady and she's looking better everyday!)
  • I celebrated my two year anniversary with my super wonderful love, J.

So, if you've decided to cut me some slack and you're still reading, let me say that I've read Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and Robert Alexander's Rasputin's Daughter without posting much about them.  Shame.

Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar was incredible. The novel traces the progression of Esther Greenwood's insanity and subsequent breakdown. The novel begins clearly enough, following Esther's short trip in NYC after she's won a scholarship to intern at a fashion magazine.  However, as soon as Esther returns to her small hometown, her life begins to spiral out of control.  The reader faces an uncomfortable and disorientating narrative while learning small pieces of Esther's past, as well as, witnessing the disturbing inner dialogue she wrestles with frequently. Because the work is semi-autobiographical, it's much more heartbreaking to read.

I've heard that many people said that felt they could really identify with her frame of mind at a younger age, but didn't see much in the novel as they aged. However, the moments that Esther vocalizes her disengagement with the tedious aspects of life, and the enormous weight of indecision, I felt that I shared many of the same feelings, not to mention, a grossly similar habit of over analyzing most anything.

One of my favorite passages of the novel expresses the great burden indecision:
I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.
The Bell Jar is a must read classic work of literature, and helped me complete another of my requirements for the Classics Challenge. 

Robert Alexander's Rasputin's Daughter was less than stellar.  I'm actually not going to say too much.  I was hankering for some historical fiction after I completed Michelle Moran's Madame Tussaud, and had purchased a used copy of RD from Goodwill some time ago.  I've also been quite fascinated with Nicholas II and his charming family, which were held captive and then secretly killed at the start of the Russian Revolution.  Rasputin, a healer employed by the royal family, and a Siberian peasant, was largely unpopular with the aristocracy of Russia.  This novel, told from the perspective of Rasputin's eldest daughter, exhibits the days leading up to his murder and the specifics of his daily life.  The novel, while entertaining and mostly interesting, was lacking in good writing.  Most of the dialogue was hurried, and the narrator seemed too easily manipulated, while events that were used to create suspense did little to follow through.  I felt that it did lead me to research actual figures from this period, and I was entertained.  If you have it, read it; however, I wouldn't necessarily suggest purchasing a copy. 

Also, thanks to everyone that comes and brightens my day with input on my posts!  I hope to get back into the swing of things in the near future, and can't wait to share my reviews of books to come.


  1. Great review of the Bell Jar! I always see classics as these amorphous and über-challenging blobs I could never get into - this review makes Bell Jar seem way more approachable. Thanks!

  2. I know exactly what you're talking about. I'll say that it did take me a moment to get used to the way in which you're abruptly transported from one scene to the next. It's quite informative about the sensitivity of the condition, and privides commentary on how far the fields of pyschology and psychiatry have come.

  3. That quote from The Bell Jar is one of my all time favorites, even though I haven't read the book. My (honest) answer to the dreaded "what's your greatest weakness" question would definitely be over analysis and indecision. I enjoy books that offer an insightful look at mental disorders, since I don't have any first hand knowledge/experience. Great review!

  4. Jenna, Exactly. That's what I got from the novel and it was informative and disheartening at once.

  5. I liked The Bell Jar a lot. That and Girl Interrupted.

  6. I still need to read The Bell Jar! And I feel like I've been absent from the blogging world as well. I went through a few weeks of slacking off on my reading, but I'm hoping that changes in the next week. Congrats on your anniversary :)

  7. I'm glad you appreciated and enjoyed The Bell Jar. I've had a crush on Ms Plath for a couple of decades - she's amazing.

    happy anniversary!

  8. My favorite line is the crack she makes about Buddy Willard's junk when he's trying to seduce her.

  9. I'm working with some poetry by Plath and Hughes right now. I must say the two were an intriguingly dark couple. Having read none of Plath prior to this I have been trying to figure out where to start, it's not her poetry, but I may shoot for The Bell Jar. Thanks for the review.

  10. I'll cut anyone slack anytime -- the end of the semester has done similar things to my blog. I can't wait for summer! Nice to see a new review, though.

    Too bad about Rasputin's Daughter. I love historical fiction, and it sounded like a book I'd enjoy, but bad writing is a killer. Thanks for the review!

  11. Bybee- Oh, yes I loved that as well!

    Titus- I ddi research on Ted Hughes a long time ago and their relationship was certainly disturbing. I've read bits of poetry, and find parts of the novel to be quite poetic. I'm looking forward to your opinion of the work.

    Col- I was really anticipating Rasputin's Daughter, but I just can't really give it the heart felt recommendation that I can with other historical fiction I've read. Glad to have helped!

  12. Ok now I can't wait to read The Bell Jar. I have it on my TBR and just haven't gotten to it. Nice mini review!

  13. It's been so long since I've read the Bell Jar, and you've picked a quote that's stuck with me since I read it at 16 - many figs have withered since then, and the quote continues to be meaningful. I might have to pick it up again and see what I think of it after another 16 years...


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