"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Jam Gallauhue is unable to deal with the grief over the death of her British-Exchange-Student boyfriend and eventually finds herself in The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont, and in Mrs Q's Special Topics English class. None of this matters because all Jam wants is her boyfriend, Reese Maxfield, but that cannot happen, ever. Then one day Jam opens her class journal and before a sentence is on the page she is in Belzhar, a place of happy memories, memories from before...

In the Special Topics In English class Mrs. Q only teaches it when there is the right mix of students, this time only five get invited to join the class, Jam in one of them. The author they will be studying is Sylvia Plath, especially her only novel, The Bell Jar. They are also required to write in their special journals twice a week.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer received quite a bit of advanced publicity before it was even published. My team and I selected it as a Mock Printz selection before any of us had read it based on all that publicity. Unfortunately, I am not sure that the book lived up to all the hype. I had hoped for more about and from Sylvia Plath. Wolitzer did do a good job weaving in the theme of the bell jar (Bel-zhar, get it?) into the storyline but did not include much of her poetry, or even details of her life. Plath was such a spectacular writer and poet, I  had truly looked forward to this book for more about Plath but came away disappointed.

The reviewer for the New York Times, Amber Dermont acknowledges that "one of Wolitzer’s triumphs is that they [readers of Belzhar] may be drawn to read or revisit The Bell Jar.”  I admit I do feel the urge to reread The Bell Jar now myself.

Near the beginning of her stay at the Wooden Barn school, Jam and her classmates are told that WORDS MATTER and they are encouraged to write so that they can find their own truths. Along the way to those truths Jam finds friendship and can finally face her life with honesty. Ultimately she found the help she needed to recover, help that Plath never did find for herself.

1 comment:

  1. Good review, Anne. I agree it wasn't spectacular but just good entertainment. And I was inspired to read The Bell Jar! (though I haven't foudn time yet but I want to now). I recently watched the movie Sylvia starring Gwenneth Paltrow which was very good, so I did know some background about her life and works.

    Book By Book


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