My copy of The Bell Jar

I just read about the 50th anniversary cover of The Bell Jar – according to the Guardian, the cover picture (woman putting on lipstick) has been “derided for branding Sylvia Plath novel as chick lit”.

Chick lit?” Derision…? (Coughs.)


Anyway, it prompted me to order a copy, because — get this — I’ve not read it. I know! I ordered a second-hand copy of the American first edition (despite the concentric ring cover from the UK) because I was intrigued by what the author was swinging from her fingers… a pendant?

In the event, I never deciphered the cover image because it arrived without its dust cover, so I had only a purple, cloth-bound hardback. Still it was pretty interesting.



It had clearly belonged to the Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first Jewish hospital set up in the USA in 1850 during a cholera epidemic, to cater for people of all faiths.



And where Robert C Rothenberg had a “shelf for leisurely medical reading”.


Robert C Rothenberg (1902-1997) was a Harvard educated, clinical professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, he held numerous medical roles and lectured on medical history, medical ethics, practice and the law, and human sexuality. He also supported a local school, the Rothenberg Elementary School named after his grandfather. His wife, Jean (“Minnie”), was a nutritionist who suffered from hearing difficulties; for decades she worked to support people with hearing difficulties, as well as other philanthropic work, leading to an honorary doctorate.


Book structure

It’s nicely bound but the pages are rough-cut, and on a few pages, there are bits of paper-flashing where the page wasn’t cut cleanly.

It speaks of history, quirks, of things missing and things added, and for that reason, it belongs with me. (My home library is the home of quirky books).

So I declined the vendor’s offer of a refund (on account of the dust jacket). I’m sure I’ll come across other editions and one day I’ll find out what the picture was meant to be. But for now, I have some “leisurely medical reading” to do. And a lovely, plain, purple, cloth-bound book to cherish. I hope it hasn’t brought any dormant diseases from the hospital, a few old TB spores or cholera residues, you know. But then again, half my books are old medical reference books so… yeah, it really does fit right in.

You’ve all read it, right? Will I like it?



  1. pjlazos says:

    You will be very sad and wonder how people can reach such depths and still write so beautifully. On account of or in spite of? The perennial question. Your post reminds me that I need to get a copy for my 16-year old. Required reading for girls in the verge of being women just as “Catcher in the Rye” is required for everyone. Good luck! It will shift you.?

    • TU says:

      Well, I’ve read it now and yes, beautifully written. A very stark picture of life as a young woman in the sixties. I wish I’d read it earlier. It didn’t surprise me in the way it might have, perhaps I’ve read too many 1960s stories and also felt haunted by Girl, Interrupted. This was definitely the book to read first, but love it anyway.

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