Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
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.