Effortlessly stylish Esther Greenwood, 19, a very grown-up looking college student from notoriously liberal Massachusetts, travels to gay-friendly New York to work on a glitzy fashion magazine for a month as a guest editor so that she doesn’t have to sponge off the state like most other young people. She works for Jay Cee, a sympathetic but demanding woman who could learn a thing or two from Paul Dacre by dropping the ‘sympathetic’ bit. Esther and eleven other college fasionistas live in a swanky women’s hotel. Their generous corporate sponsors wine and dine them and shower them with presents that they can afford thanks to low corporation taxes that Labour would hike up. Esther knows in her little lady-brain she should be having the time of her life, flaunting her curves and heading out with her gal pals, but she feels a bit mopey. She whines about commonsense execution of the dangerous commie Rosenbergs because she mistakenly thinks Marxists are humans and not vermin who hate their country. Also, she can embrace neither the rebellious and subversive tomboy attitude of her friend Doreen nor the decent conformism of her friend Betsy. Esther and the other girls suffer food poisoning after eating French food at a fancy banquet, in a shocking incident that shows government red-tape can’t keep our young people safe. Esther attempts to lose her virginity with a UN interpreter after getting the idea from the sidebar of shame, but he seems uninterested because he’s probably a gay-rights zealot. She rightly questions her womanly abilities and worries about what she will do after college besides raising decent hardworking children in a traditional heterosexual marriage. On her last night in the city, she goes on a disastrous blind date with a European named Marco, who tries to have consensual sex with her while she is sleeping.
Esther wonders if she should do the right thing by marrying and living a conventional domestic life, or spit in the face of Queen and country by attempting to satisfy her radical ambition. Buddy Willard, her college boyfriend, is recovering from tuberculosis in a dirty and understaffed NHS ward, and wants to marry Esther when he regains his health so that they can live happily ever after and get the married couples tax allowance. To any right-minded observer, Buddy is the ideal beau: he has traditional masculine features; has a commonsense approach to modern life; he is pursuing a high-flying career; and above all he is a white, middle-class, heterosexual, Christian male who loves his country. But he does not understand Esther’s poncy desire to waste her time writing poetry, and when he shockingly confesses that he had a steamy one-night stand with a waitress while dating Esther, Esther mistakenly thinks him a hypocrite like those lefties at the Guardian and decides she cannot marry him despite the lure of the marriage tax break. She sets out to assert her insubordinate feminist agenda by irresponsibly excluding our photographers from her pursuit of a man.
Esther returns to the family-friendly Boston suburbs and discovers not only that house prices have gone up 20% since she left, but also that she has not been accepted to a pointless writing class she had planned to take while living in denial of her proper place as a mother and wife. She spends spend the summer at home instead like other layabout sponging students. She makes vague plans to write a novel about beautiful princesses, learn shorthand so she can be someone’s secretary, and start her ludicrous thesis. Soon she starts having a Lohan-Spears-Winehouse-esque breakdown, heroically captured by the paps and splashed on pages 4-17. She is thankfully unable to read her raving feminist tracts, write her useless thesis, or sleep the eight hours a night she would need to prevent cancer, and she stops bathing which leads to her looking like a complete tramp. Her mother takes her to Dr. Gordon, a private psychiatrist who treats Esther with better care than she could ever get on the NHS and prescribes the commonsense solution of electric shock therapy. Esther becomes demented after this shocking(!) treatment, and decides to kill herself like those dangerous Muslims sometimes do with bombs. As she is most ashamed of her flabby arms she tries to slit her wrists but can only bring herself to slash her calf, ruining her leggy figure. She tries to hang herself, but cannot find a place to tie the rope in her low ceilinged house. At the beach, showing off her summer bikini body with friends, she attempts to drown herself, but she keeps floating to the surface of the water. Finally, she hides in a basement crawl space in her mother’s £500,000 home and takes a large quantity of sleeping pills recklessly prescribed by a foreign GP earning £200,000-per year.
Esther awakens to find herself in a stylish private hospital. She has unbelievably survived her suicide attempt with no permanent physical injuries. Once her body heals and she looks good enough to strut her stuff in the hottest bars in town, she is sent to the loony-bin in the city hospital, where she is frumpy, hysterical, and stroppy. Eventually, Philomena Guinea, a notorious ‘novelist’ who puts our youth in danger with her unchristian fables and who sponsors Esther’s college scholarship, pays to move her to a much better and cleaner private hospital. In this more decent and commonsense environment, Esther comes to trust her new psychiatrist, a woman doctor named Dr. Nolan (a woman). She slowly begins to improve with a combination of whingey-whiney talk therapy and good old-fashioned electric shock therapy. She becomes friends with Joan, a woman from her hometown and college who has had experiences similar to Esther’s. She is rightfully repulsed, however, when Joan makes a shocking perverted sexual advance toward her.
As Esther improves, the jobsworth hospital administrators grant her permission to leave the hospital from time to time. During one of these exciting trips out on the town, she FINALLY loses her virginity with a suspiciously intelligent maths professor named Irwin. She begins bleeding profusely and has to go to an A&E where she is forced to wait for six hours because the queue is being held up by Romanians and asylum seekers. One morning, Joan, who seemed to be improving, hangs herself while wearing a chic black skirt that shows off her amazing thighs. Buddy heroically comes to visit Esther, but she destroys his manliness by slapping him down and forcing him to say that the decision to end their relationship was ‘mutual’. Esther will leave the insane asylum in time to start winter semester at her elitist college. She believes that she has regained as much of a grasp on sanity as the average Daily Mail journalist, but knows that the bell jar of her madness could descend again at any time like the dead hand of the EU on Great Britain.