Tag Archives: The Bell Jar

On Covers, Readership and The Bell Jar


Recently there has been lots of fuss around the new cover for The Bell Jar (see above). Lots of people have been saying that the cover doesn’t reflect the book, that it makes the book look unsubstantial, that it has an aura of chick-lit around it.

Really this post isn’t about The Bell Jar cover as such, but I feel seeing as it’s what has inspired this post then I should at least make my own feelings on this known. So, in brief. I can see how the cover can be seen as being chick-lit like. The lipstick, the pretty woman, the mirror. However I think if it’s a chick-lit cover then it’s chick-lit about a sad woman, I mean look at those lips, look at that reflection. If it does indeed attract chick-lit readers then once they see the image closer up then they will see that it is different, but may be interested enough to look further.

Anyway Faber & Faber answered the concerns this week. Key in their reasoning was the idea of a new readership, a reader who…

will enjoy its (The Bell Jar’s) brilliance without knowing anything about Plath’s other work.

There’s a certain deja-vu about it all. What was it that Bloomsbury said of the new editions of Harry Potter? What did Headline say of their new ‘chick-lit style’ Austen covers? It always seems to be finding a new readership, but does it work?

Well there could be quite a shock for people who pick up The Bell Jar based on its new cover, especially if they are reading it based solely on the cover image. Whilst I can personally see a sadness there is it just because I know The Bell Jar? If I knew nothing of the Bell Jar would I pick it up expecting something light and easy? Even having read the blurb (which gives no real allusions) would I still expect everything to turn out perfectly (because, you know, there aren’t sad endings in chick-lit)?

Even if this new cover gets people to buy The Bell Jar who wouldn’t have previously will you actually be getting a new fanbase (for want of a better word)? How many of these people will give up when they don’t get what they expected and how many will become Plath convertees*? I imagine that there would be people who wouldn’t have considered Plath before who find they actually enjoy The Bell Jar so look into her other works, However I also imagine that there will be people who go for The Bell Jar expecting something else and feel a little like they have been tricked.


After all that’s what a new cover is about isn’t it? About making a book appear differently. I don’t really think that the new cover for The Bell Jar is too bad for this but whilst Jane Austen is in a way the mother of chick-lit the chick-lit style covers do suggest something other than a classic. If you live in a hole and have never heard of Jane Austen you may actually think they are your stereotypical chick-lit books based on the covers (see right). Just don’t ask me what type of hole you can live in to have access to chick-lit but still not know who Jane Austen is.

So what do we think? Are different covers a good idea because they might bring new lovers to old books? Are they just a trick which might get up sales for a bit but ultimately lead to nothing? Or are they just an attempt which will never do anything?

Have you ever bought a book based on a new cover?

 

 

 

*yes, I do realise that convertee is not a real word, but it works, so I’m keeping it

14 Comments

Filed under Musings

A Matter of Death and Life- Andrey Kurkov


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Marital troubles? Sick of life? Suicide the answer? Why not get yourself a contract killer? Nothing easier, provided you communicate only by phone and box number. You give him your photograph, specify when and where to find you, then sit back and prepare to die. Murdered, you will be of greater interest than ever you were in life. More to him than met the eye will be the judgment. A mysterious killing lives long in the popular memory. Our hero meticulously plans his own demise, except for one detail: what if he suddenly decides he wants to live? This darkly funny tale is Kurkov on top form.

Review

Having read Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost in the past I just couldn’t resist this book when I spotted it. And I wasn’t disappointed. It was certainly on par with Death and the Penguin, possibly even better. It made me chuckle in quite a few places [highlight for spoiler]especially the idea of hiring a hitman to kill a hitman you had hired so he couldn’t do his job! I really liked the main character (and narrator) and felt he could be real. Comparing this suicidal man to the woman in The Bell Jar there were actually quite similar in ways but the tone of this book was completely different and a bit of light relief. It’s interesting to see how two different authors can deal with the same subject in different ways. Great book.

4.5/5

3 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Humour

The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath


Synopsis (from Amazon)

Esther Greenwood is at college and is fighting two battles, one against her own desire for perfection in all things – grades, boyfriend, looks, career – and the other against remorseless mental illness. As her depression deepens she finds herself encased in it, bell-jarred away from the rest of the world. This is the story of her journey back into reality. Highly readable, witty and disturbing, The Bell Jar is Sylvia Plath’s only novel and was originally published under a pseudonym in 1963. What it has to say about what women expect of themselves, and what society expects of women, is as sharply relevant today as it has always been.

Review.

This book was really beautifully written, almost poetic. I felt I could really see into Esther’s mind, or almost like I was her. It was really clever in that I didn’t really feel sympathetic for her because she was so matter of fact about it, it was like I didn’t feel I should give her sympathy [highlight for spoiler]I almost even wanted her to succeed in her suicide attempts because she seemed to want it so much, but I wanted her to get ‘better’ more. I found some parts fascinating [highlight for spoiler]especially the bits with the ECT but they were also quite hard to read. I liked how the story was open ended and that the reader could almost pick what happened in the end.

4.5/5

4 Comments

Filed under Contempory, Fiction review, Psychology (fiction)