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Sylvia Plath: A Biography

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The first biography of Sylvia Plath to draw on unpublished journals and letters, Sylvia Plath provides a detailed, objective, and illuminating portrait of this talented and tortured woman who is widely recognized as one of America's foremost poets of the 20th century. 20 pages of photos.


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The first biography of Sylvia Plath to draw on unpublished journals and letters, Sylvia Plath provides a detailed, objective, and illuminating portrait of this talented and tortured woman who is widely recognized as one of America's foremost poets of the 20th century. 20 pages of photos.

30 review for Sylvia Plath: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ieva Andriuskeviciene

    Ho many stars you can put on someone’s tragic life? This biography first time uncovers some of at that time unpublished Sylvia’s diaries. Very well written, simple sensitive and knowledgeable. It should be extremely difficult to write about someone who has so many problems and such a tragic end. I particularly likes the atmosphere what it is expected from a woman in 1950ies. To be married. Not anything else ‘The message was clear, The only happy woman was the married woman (....) The mid century Ho many stars you can put on someone’s tragic life? This biography first time uncovers some of at that time unpublished Sylvia’s diaries. Very well written, simple sensitive and knowledgeable. It should be extremely difficult to write about someone who has so many problems and such a tragic end. I particularly likes the atmosphere what it is expected from a woman in 1950ies. To be married. Not anything else ‘The message was clear, The only happy woman was the married woman (....) The mid century code of morality was entirely negative - nice girls didn’t have sex. According to the magazines, women were supposed to enjoy sex, but with just one lifetime partner. “Modern woman” stated that women would find sexual satisfaction only through motherhood’ Sylvia’s many life struggle was how to be everything. Good wife and mother, but not only that. She wanted to be acknowledged as Plath not just as Mrs Ted Hugnes. She was talented poet, a writer herself. And after more that 50 years not that much changed for most for the most of the women. Same everyday fight. The last days of her life and her suicide made me cry. Just 3 years after her first book deal. Just after the separation Ted. She was only 30 years old at the time. For the further read I am going to take Assia Wevill’s biography https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1... Another tragic life wasted. She was a lover of Ted during his marriage with Sylvia. After her death lived together with Sylvia’s kids and another her and Ted’s child. Unfortunately she left her life in a very similar manner like Plath. Taking her son with her

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    I found this biography of Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) to be well written and researched. Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, short-story writer, and winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems (awarded posthumously). My motive for reading this biography was to prepare for the reading of The Bell Jar which I understand to be a semi-autobiographical novel that recounts her own life experiences of depression, attempted suicide and recovery into a new l I found this biography of Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) to be well written and researched. Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, short-story writer, and winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems (awarded posthumously). My motive for reading this biography was to prepare for the reading of The Bell Jar which I understand to be a semi-autobiographical novel that recounts her own life experiences of depression, attempted suicide and recovery into a new life. Plath's intent in writing The Bell Jar was to deliver an optimistic message of rebirth from depression. Unfortunately, Sylvia Plath succumbed to depression and committed suicide twenty-seven days after The Bell Jar was published in the United Kingdom. Sylvia Plath was clearly a talented writer, and her death was a terrible loss to the world of literature. In the Preface the author notes that when she began research for this biography she had the full cooperation of Ted Hughes (Sylvia's estranged husband) who owns the Plath literary rights. But when it came near the time to published that cooperation ceased because he wanted editorial control which the author refused. Consequently she was unable to include quotations from interviews with Ted. At various times during this biography's account of Plath's life, the author references poems and other writings by Sylvia that reflect on those life experiences. Since my motive for reading this book was in preparation for The Bell Jar I have included extensive quotations from the book below that make reference to The Bell Jar. The following quote describes Sylvia's writing of The Bell Jar and also mentions some of the various influences of other literature on her work:Sylvia’s letters home were ecstatic. What she was not writing to Aurelia, however, was even more exciting. With Knopf’s acceptance of The Colossus, a deep frustration had dissolved, and she was now working “Fiendishly” on her novel. Now called The Bell Jar, the book was written in the satirical voice of a Salinger or Roth character who uses a mixture of wry understatement and comic exaggeration. The protagonist’s interior monologue tells of her summer as guest editor at Mademoiselle, her first serious romance and its breakup, her depression, her attempted suicide, and--most important to Sylvia--her recovery. Plath wanted to do more than write autobiographical fiction. She wanted her novel to speak for the lives of countless women--women she had known--women caught in conflicting social codes who were able to laugh about their plight. A central image of the book, the fig tree bearing ripe figs, depicts the female dilemma of the 1950s. No woman can have it all, but choosing is also difficult.I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree .... From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantine and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and off-beat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. l saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest .... The protagonists comic monologue is calculated to imply that a woman does not have to make that single choice. Her dilemma is entirely artificial. Only social pressure forces the choice. Esther Greenwood, the narrator of the novel, appreciates the ridiculousness of her plight. Her perceptions set her outside society, but they do not free her from the pressures of that world. Plath carefully sets the story of Esther in the context of a political situation (not for nothing had she been reading Camus and Sartre), the controversial execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Esther's personal horror at what she finds in life is set against the horror of their executions. Plath's choice of her grandmothers maiden name, Greenwood, was satisfying for both symbolic reasons and personal ones, and since the novel moves toward Esther`s rebirth, the image is appropriate. In The Bell Jar, Esther is a survivor: she has a sense of humor, a cool if cynical view of life that colors the grim comedy of her descriptions. She is also--at the time she writes the story--a mother, a practical woman who has made the best of her life, and who tries to learn from it. Like Holden Caulfield in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, or Elizabeth in Shirley Jackson’s The Bird’s Nest, Esther is not ashamed of her descent into madness: she wants to tell about it, partly to rid herself of memories, partly to help other women faced with the same cultural pressure. Writing The Bell Jar was a liberating experience for Sylvia. She went each morning to the Merwins’ and wrote for three or four hours. For the first time in her life, her writing provided continuity for her. The long prose story had its own rhythm, its own demands. With poetry, when Sylvia had finished one poem, there was no reason to write any particular next poem; everything was separate, distinct. With a novel, everything could be used: the writer's life was fair game, including all the writer's experiences and certainly the writer‘s emotions, whatever had prompted them. And in writing this novel, Plath did draw on all her experiences. For example, she borrowed a sexual experience from a blind date during her freshman year at Smith, describing it as though it happened with Buddy Willard. In many ways, The Catcher in the Rye was the model Plath was using for The Bell Jar. Sylvia turned to it for structure, and drew on it whenever she ran out of events that seemed to fit Esther’s story. Holden meets a sailor and a Cuban; so does Esther. Holden walks forty-one blocks back to his New York hotel; Esther walks forty-eight. Holden looks as yellow in his mirror as Esther (looking Chinese) does in hers. He vomits before going to bed; in The Bell Jar Doreen does that, but then Esther and the other guest editors share in another long purge after eating bad crab. Both books have a cemetery scene. Catcher has its violent and bloody suicide in James Castle’s death, which becomes the suicide by hanging in The Bell Jar. Holden Caulfield wants to go West because he thinks that part of the country will save him. Esther wants to go to Chicago for the same reasons. The suggestion of sexual deviance in the subplot, too, echoes Holden's discovery of the homosexuality of Mr. Antolini, his friend and former teacher. That discovery precipitates Holden`s breakdown. For Esther, however, the suspicion of her friend`s sexual preference is much less important than the fact of her death. Tone and mood in The Bell Jar change quickly. Plath opens with a flush of Esther`s euphoric memories, painfully described yet distant enough to be harmless. This was a "comic" novel Sylvia was writing (she later called it "a pot-boiler"). Its outcome was to be positive: the rebirth of Esther, a woman who had come through both Dante’s hell and her own, to Find her fulfillment not in some idealized Beatrice, the unattainable woman/spirit, but in herself. The Bell Jar would reach beyond Catcher, because in that book Holden was telling his story to a sympathetic therapist and to his readers, but he was not yet free of the asylum or its stigma. For Esther, there was rebirth. For Plath, too, a yearning for rebirth, for a clean start, seems to have dominated the spring of 1961. Now that her appendix had been removed, she could no longer blame her moods on health problems. The moods, however, remained and a vengeful anger periodically erupted through the calm surface of her life. It also erupted in her writing. (p187)The last sentence above is a lead in to the next chapter. The following describes Sylvia Plath's efforts at finding an American publisher for The Bell Jar and how she felt about her novel.Sylvia quickly submitted the novel to Harper & Row, eager to find an American publisher before Heinemann brought out the book in England on January 14, 1963. Even though she has earlier referred to The Bell Jar as a “pot-boiler” and would be publishing it under a pseudonym (“Victoria Lucas”), her attitude about the novel had changed. Reading it in proofs, Sylvia realized what she had accomplished. The Bell Jar was good, crisp, funny, and yet poignant book. It spoke with the voice of an over-aged Smithie, reminiscent of the cynical Smith voice that colored the campus newspaper and year book. It was a 1950s voice, a 1950s attitude, just as it was supposed to be. (p233)The following is a reference of what her next novel would have been had she lived to finish it.She worked on her new novel now titled Double Exposure about the gradual corruption of a naive American girl who revered honesty by a powerful and inherently dishonest man. As in her other writing the theme came directly from her life. (p236)Is it possible that the "inherently dishonest man" being referred to above was Ted Hughes? The following is a description of Sylvia Plath's reaction to reviews after The Bell Jar was published. January 14, The Bell Jar was officially published and available. ... a few days later Sylvia received a letter from Elizabeth Lawrence of Harper and Row rejecting The Bell Jar. Addressing Sylvia as Mrs. Ted Hughes the editor complained that the breakdown remained only “a private experience.” The novel did not work, she said. ... On January 25 two reviews of The Bell Jar by the unknown Victoria Lucas appeared. Robert Taubman, writing in New Statesman thought the novel was excellent and that Lucas was a female J.D. Salinger. The Times Literary Supplement was less excited about the book but still reviewed it favorably. Although the reviews were very good, Sylvia was frustrated. They seem to have missed the point of the ending, the affirmation of Esther’s rebirth. She was so upset in fact with such a need to talk to somebody that she went downstairs to Professor Thomas weeping uncontrollably. He asked her in and, alternating between grief an resentment, she gave free reign to her anger against her husband and the other woman, her frustration at being chained to the house and the children when she wanted to be free to write and become famous. Asking for a Sunday paper, she pointed to a poem in The Observer and said it was by her husband. Then turning to a review of The Bell Jar by Victoria Lucas she disclosed that she, Sylvia Plath, was Victoria Lucas and said that she did not want to die. (p237)I find it ironic and unfair that Ted Hughes inherited the literary rights to Sylvia Plath's post-death income from book sales and the fame of the Plath name. Sylvia had signed some divorce papers, but apparently the divorce wasn't final at the time of her death. The unfairness of it all is compounded by the fact that Ted Hughes either hid or destroyed Sylvia's Journals from the time near her death. These are the journals that most likely would have contained derogatory remarks about her husband.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Sylvia Plath was an excellent writer, I still have a 1960's copy of The Bell Jar that she wrote. This biography explores her often enigmatic life in a time when people like her were not well understood.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Like most readers/poetry fans, I knew the tragic story of how Sylvia Plath's life ended. But I knew little else until I read this book. Linda Wagner-Martin writes a very thorough and touching biography from Sylvia Plath's chidhood (born 1932) until her suicide in 1963. So much is revealed from the untimely and emotional death of Sylvia's father, her days at Smith (and her first attempted suicide), her popularity, beliefs, and uncanny ability to work her sadness and suffering into the poetry that Like most readers/poetry fans, I knew the tragic story of how Sylvia Plath's life ended. But I knew little else until I read this book. Linda Wagner-Martin writes a very thorough and touching biography from Sylvia Plath's chidhood (born 1932) until her suicide in 1963. So much is revealed from the untimely and emotional death of Sylvia's father, her days at Smith (and her first attempted suicide), her popularity, beliefs, and uncanny ability to work her sadness and suffering into the poetry that defines her today. I found it even sadder that at the time of her death, Syliva was perhaps at the height of her creativity. While reading this book, I could not help but think that Sylvia Plath was her own toughest critic. The demands she put on herself and the self-imposed strain to always over-achieve were incredible. While I always felt that her estranged spouse, Ted Hughes, was a louse, it became even more evident when I learned that he left her for another woman while the youngest of their two children (Nicholas) was only a few months old. There were other incidents of his behavior that also enraged me but that's not the point of this review. Another thing I loved about this book is the Afterword; the Notes on Sources; and that it has an Index and that Index also contains a list of all of Sylvia Plath's mentioned works. For me, all of this additional reference makes for a very complete biography. After reading this, I now hope to re-read The Bell Jar very soon. I must note a scene on page 159 when Sylvia, Anne Sexton, and George Starbuck drive Sexton's old Ford to the Ritz bar (back in the day a very stuffy and proper Boston establishment) for martinis; Anne parks her old car in the Ritz's loading zone and shouts when challenged that it was all right for her to park there because the 3 of them were going to get loaded!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leanna

    Pretty interesting. Very clearly written and obviously well researched. Wagner-Martin especially makes Plath's time as a single mother, and what a struggle that was for her, very real and palpable. At times, though, she engages in pop-pyschology analysis of Plath, and that's a bit annoying. Also, sometimes she makes claims and there is no support. And I wanted to have much more about the dissolution of the Plath-Hughes marriage. However, Wagner-Martin notes in the preface that the Hughes' limite Pretty interesting. Very clearly written and obviously well researched. Wagner-Martin especially makes Plath's time as a single mother, and what a struggle that was for her, very real and palpable. At times, though, she engages in pop-pyschology analysis of Plath, and that's a bit annoying. Also, sometimes she makes claims and there is no support. And I wanted to have much more about the dissolution of the Plath-Hughes marriage. However, Wagner-Martin notes in the preface that the Hughes' limited her access to Plath's writing, so I don't think the occasional lapse in detail or insight is necessarily her fault. Things I learned, in no particular order: --Anne Sexton influenced Plath early on, not the other way around! The two took a class with Robert Lowell together and became friends. Plath found herself very inspired by Sexton's writing. Sexton also found publishing success first. --Hughes pretty much left Plath (I guess before I thought it was mutual?). He left her to fend for herself in Devon, England, the middle of nowhere, with a toddler and an infant. She was on her own when she was writing the Ariel poems. Why did this man who treated her so shabbily, and whom she was on the verge of divorce from at the time of her death, get to be the executor of her literary estate? Why not her mother? --Plath was very much a perfectionist. In many ways, with her accomplishments, ambition, and drive to excel in all areas, she reminds me of the, like, prep school kids of today who are groomed for achievement from the cradle. Wagner-Martin makes the case that Plath's perfectionism was due to the pressure her parents exerted on her early on, but honestly, her evidence didn't support that, to me, at least. Aurelia seemed very supportive. But, yes, I didn't know that Plath's early life was plumped with gifted-kid extracurriculars, nor that she went to posh Wellesley High, before taking over Smith. --Plath's sense of humor, which I love to see in her poetry, was a big part of her personality. --According to Wagner-Martin, at least, Plath was very much caught between her desire to be a successful author and her desire to be the model 50's woman--husband, children, etc. --As noted above, many of Plath's struggles before her suicide had to do with trying to care for her children and house and make a living on her own. --From "Lady Lazarus", I thought Plath had tried to kill herself four times. It seems from her biography that she'd had only one major breakdown, in the 50s. I wonder if her suicide attempt seemed more surprising because she'd been "stable" for ten years after that attempt? --Plath and her mother wrote letters to each other constantly. Their closeness via snail mail reminded me of how parents and children keep in touch now through email. --Plath wrote "The Bell Jar" before she wrote many of her most successful poems. For some reason, I thought "The Bell Jar" came after. I'd noticed some of the same images in the novel and Plath's poems, and because I'd enjoyed their development more in the poems than in the novel, I guess I'd thought their "afterthoughts" were in the novel. Overall, a fascinating portrait of Plath. The story of her life and death is very moving.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Moira Russell

    Probably one of the dullest books ever written about an incendiary literary figure.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laoise Murray

    I finished this in the past 2 days. I've always considered her poetry and life fascinating. A truly interesting and enthralling poet and I found how she ultimately committed suicide fascinating. It was written beautifully and I very much dislike Ted Hughes (well he's dead now). He was very controlling of her while she was alive, her image after her death and even "lost" some of her journals and burnt her last ever journal that has accounts of before her suicide. All for I believe an elaborate cove I finished this in the past 2 days. I've always considered her poetry and life fascinating. A truly interesting and enthralling poet and I found how she ultimately committed suicide fascinating. It was written beautifully and I very much dislike Ted Hughes (well he's dead now). He was very controlling of her while she was alive, her image after her death and even "lost" some of her journals and burnt her last ever journal that has accounts of before her suicide. All for I believe an elaborate cover up of how awful he truly was. It is interesting to note the exact women he had an affair with while married to Plath goes onto commit suicide also while they are together and recently it has come to light that Plath claimed in some of her works that Hughes beat her so bad she had a miscarriage.

  8. 5 out of 5

    April Berry

    She has been such a mystery of a woman to me and I will always love her writings. Linda Wagner-Martin goes into some great detail regarding the reasoning behind Sylvia'a stories/poems/letters. Accomplished yet misunderstood; I think she was really growing in her writing during the last year of her life.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Dooley

    When I'd read THE BELL JAR, I immediately wanted to know more about the writer. Other readers mentioned that it was such a depressing book, and I didn't find it so. In fact, I thought the story was uplifting. Also, there was such insight offered into the emotions of the character. It didn't feel as if I was just reading about them ... it felt as if I was experiencing them with the character. The book has come back to me from time to time ever since, and I know that I plan to read it again. So, i When I'd read THE BELL JAR, I immediately wanted to know more about the writer. Other readers mentioned that it was such a depressing book, and I didn't find it so. In fact, I thought the story was uplifting. Also, there was such insight offered into the emotions of the character. It didn't feel as if I was just reading about them ... it felt as if I was experiencing them with the character. The book has come back to me from time to time ever since, and I know that I plan to read it again. So, it was with great anticipation that I read this biography. Although it was not what I had expected, I was not disappointed. The writer had expected to produce a much longer work, including not only an intimate exploration of Sylvia Plath's life, but also excerpts from her journals and her writings to illustrate her points. Initially, this was to be done in cooperation with Ted Hughes, Plath's husband and the owner of the Estate's rights to publish his wife's works. When the manuscript took a less than favorable view of his behavior, the cooperation was withdrawn. The result, however, was not a diminished work. The writer was still able to include short passages from Plath's works in addition to letters and correspondence with acquaintances that were not a part of the Estate. Although the biography does detail the major events of Sylvia Plath's life, it also provides a literary perspective, showing how her reactions to events were reflected in her work. This is a remarkably revealing insight into a human life. More than any other writer who immediately comes to mind, Sylvia Plath presented her emotional life in her writing. In many cases, the raw power comes through unvarnished. The sections that dealt with the writing and publication of THE BELL JAR amazed me. The events that I'd read in the novel matched what had happened in her life with eerie precision. I've read autobiographies that didn't contain this level of detail and emotional involvement. For those wanting to know more about Sylvia Plath and her work, this will likely be as good as it gets ... and I can assure you that we are not settling for second best. This is a remarkable biography of a fascinating, troubled and brilliant woman.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    LOVED this book! I have always admired plath though she was not an easy person to "like". The author strikes a great balance between the facts of plath's life and her writing. The text serves as a great introduction to Plath. The book causes me to want to re-read The Bell Jar and dust off the poetry collections I have. WOULD GIVE 10 stars if I could. It also makes me want to read Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton and all those who influenced Plath. Did not discover until I read this book that she was i LOVED this book! I have always admired plath though she was not an easy person to "like". The author strikes a great balance between the facts of plath's life and her writing. The text serves as a great introduction to Plath. The book causes me to want to re-read The Bell Jar and dust off the poetry collections I have. WOULD GIVE 10 stars if I could. It also makes me want to read Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton and all those who influenced Plath. Did not discover until I read this book that she was influenced by the author of one of my all time favorite films: Now Voyager.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kellie-Rose Wick

    Sylvia Plath This rating reflects my respect to the devout writer, and her life's work as a struggling artist in pursuit of happiness, so sadly and tragically unrequited in life. A serious person who is indeed extremely focused on her gifts, yet does not know the merit of her own worth, she is perpetually self conscious or insecure of her works not being up to par. I recommend this book to all who are new to the poetry of Ms. Sylvia Platt.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Amazing, moving. It seems strange to cry at a biography, and it was only a bit, but I have always loved Sylvia Plath and it felt like losing a friend.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josh Moore

    Wait, do I have Borderline Personality Disorder, too? I need to start writing ASAP to get something out of all of this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Dorota

    Overall, a well-researched, deeply humane piece of writing, presenting Plath as a troubled personality struggling to find her poetic voice within the narrow context of stereotypical American femininity (and the ways in which she fell victim to it). It is an attempt to explore numerous interesting themes (such as Plath's insatiable thirst for excellence, her deep-seated emotional dependency on her family and loved ones), although at times the book seems to oversimplify or omit certain issues. The Overall, a well-researched, deeply humane piece of writing, presenting Plath as a troubled personality struggling to find her poetic voice within the narrow context of stereotypical American femininity (and the ways in which she fell victim to it). It is an attempt to explore numerous interesting themes (such as Plath's insatiable thirst for excellence, her deep-seated emotional dependency on her family and loved ones), although at times the book seems to oversimplify or omit certain issues. The biography can hardly be considered a field to attempt a fully-fledged analysis of Plath's mental issues; that being said, I feel it might have benefitted from leaving some conclusions unsaid. At times, unsteadily paced and frustrating, mainly due to the dry accumulation of names and dates. The lack of Plath's own voice is also very pronounced in some fragments, although, as the author highlights, she was forced to edit out considerable portions of the book, as well as to refrain from using some of Plath's writing. I cannot imagine how much this biography would have been enriched had Linda Wagner-Martin been allowed to make full use of her resources. As it is, this biography is still a valuable complement to Plath's work, and it provides at least a basic framework in which to explore her writing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    If you know little about Sylvia Plath's troubled life then this is a good introductory biography: it's a very readable and accessible primer which takes a neutral, objective view of Plath herself and, especially, her marriage to Hughes. It's especially good on Plath's days as a college student at Smith where she dated obsessively and struggled with issues of sexuality, perfectionism, and feminine identity. Later books are far more detailed and, often, take up ideological positions in relation to If you know little about Sylvia Plath's troubled life then this is a good introductory biography: it's a very readable and accessible primer which takes a neutral, objective view of Plath herself and, especially, her marriage to Hughes. It's especially good on Plath's days as a college student at Smith where she dated obsessively and struggled with issues of sexuality, perfectionism, and feminine identity. Later books are far more detailed and, often, take up ideological positions in relation to Plath: especially good on her early years is Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, and on the politics of Plath biography The Silent Woman. Reading Plath's own journals, this served me well as a reminder of what is happening in the spaces not covered by her diaries, and also as background to the various men in her life. So this is brisk and, arguably, a bit simplistic but it works well as an introduction or as a quick refresher.

  16. 5 out of 5

    elizabeth turner

    Questionable pace, at times frustrating but very informative on the background of her poems Around the in-depth background behind Plath's parents, every poem and journal entry frustrating but at the same informative- I know an oxymoron or what. It just felt at times too much reflection on what she wrote when. I found the detail of every make relationship unneeded and could have been dumped up better as a whole. There was also little insight in the end of Ted but I am aware this may have been beca Questionable pace, at times frustrating but very informative on the background of her poems Around the in-depth background behind Plath's parents, every poem and journal entry frustrating but at the same informative- I know an oxymoron or what. It just felt at times too much reflection on what she wrote when. I found the detail of every make relationship unneeded and could have been dumped up better as a whole. There was also little insight in the end of Ted but I am aware this may have been because of his controlling content. What I did like was the summary of the feminism in the 1950s interlaced with the imagery of a fig tree relating to women's choices and impact it was so poignant that Plaith viewed her tragedy was being born a woman and made me think as a woman who works, is the bread winner yet also does the all the housework and is tinged with guilt are we any further forward really? The part of herbicide at first annoyed me; it came as a quick shock, the oh we are here and that was it. Yet that's the truth with suicide, the ones you have to worry about are the quiet suicidal people, they don't dramatize they act on it. Just like that they are gone!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Oisín

    "the loss of it, the terrible loss of the more she could have done! From this epigraph alone, one can diagnose the main failing of this biography; it is entirely unable to escape Plath's ultimate fate, often distancing both author and reader from its subject and relying on rather anaemic analysis of her writing, creative and otherwise, to make any insight into who Plath was. This problem is exacerbated when the biography describes the final period of Plath's life, a period in which there are "the loss of it, the terrible loss of the more she could have done! From this epigraph alone, one can diagnose the main failing of this biography; it is entirely unable to escape Plath's ultimate fate, often distancing both author and reader from its subject and relying on rather anaemic analysis of her writing, creative and otherwise, to make any insight into who Plath was. This problem is exacerbated when the biography describes the final period of Plath's life, a period in which there are no journals to guide the biographer; the tone becomes more speculative, more unsure, before finishing with the final, unfortunate, facts of Plath's life, known to anyone with a cursory interest. Whilst Wagner-Martin should be praised for her resistance to the rather domineering influence of Olwyn Hughes on Plath's legacy, in addition to the obvious amount of work that went into the book; it is a rather awkward piece of work, lacking in any kind of deep analysis of Plath's work or life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Understanding Sylvia Plath: A Must-Read for Poetry Lovers A remarkably well-researched book into the chaotic life of one America's greatest poets. If you love Sylvia Plath's poetry--you will love this hook. The author's insight into the poet's early years and later, after her marriage to Ted Hughes, builds toward a dramatic conclusion. While the author skirts any detailed discussion of whether Plath suffered from abuse at the hands of Hughes, the reader is left to draw her or his own conclusions. Understanding Sylvia Plath: A Must-Read for Poetry Lovers A remarkably well-researched book into the chaotic life of one America's greatest poets. If you love Sylvia Plath's poetry--you will love this hook. The author's insight into the poet's early years and later, after her marriage to Ted Hughes, builds toward a dramatic conclusion. While the author skirts any detailed discussion of whether Plath suffered from abuse at the hands of Hughes, the reader is left to draw her or his own conclusions. This detailed documentation of Plath's emotional collapse will provide an even greater understanding of her work and a profound appreciation for her place among this country's greatest poets.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    A decent biography but with some big gaps. Wagner-Martin sets out to focus on Plath's work which maybe explains the lack of any detail about Plath's relationship with her children, other than a few mentions of references to them in her poems. But there's a big focus on Plath's relationship with her mother, so there's a bit of a contradiction there. W-M is pretty even-handed with Plath - she doesn't gloss over Plath's difficult behaviour - but is hard on Plath's mother (whether that's a fair depi A decent biography but with some big gaps. Wagner-Martin sets out to focus on Plath's work which maybe explains the lack of any detail about Plath's relationship with her children, other than a few mentions of references to them in her poems. But there's a big focus on Plath's relationship with her mother, so there's a bit of a contradiction there. W-M is pretty even-handed with Plath - she doesn't gloss over Plath's difficult behaviour - but is hard on Plath's mother (whether that's a fair depiction or not, I don't know). The book left me wanting to find out more about Plath, her work and her relationships. Good in one way, but perhaps an indication of the lack of depth in this biography? I'll definitely read The Bell Jar now - something I've been meaning to do for years.

  20. 5 out of 5

    william ellison

    Method or madness? Read in conjunction with the poems this is a satisfying account of a difficult and sad life. Perhaps the author is too ready to draw psychological conclusions and misses a little bit the undoubted humour and even joy of some of the poetry. But she gets to grips objectively with the conflicts behind the actual clinical depression, family, male archetypes and stereotypes and the fact that men leather down, as they do. Left with a sense of terrible waste - if only she could have b Method or madness? Read in conjunction with the poems this is a satisfying account of a difficult and sad life. Perhaps the author is too ready to draw psychological conclusions and misses a little bit the undoubted humour and even joy of some of the poetry. But she gets to grips objectively with the conflicts behind the actual clinical depression, family, male archetypes and stereotypes and the fact that men leather down, as they do. Left with a sense of terrible waste - if only she could have been less idealistic about relationships and less disappointed by what some love to call the ' real' world.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Billie

    A bit too long and detailed for my liking, but very informative. I highlighted numerous passages I want to further explore...her poems, women who inspired her, etc. I'm still not quite sure about how I feel about her...while definitely suffering from mental illness, it seemed her inability to just be content with herself or in her life brought on a lot of the problems she encountered. I started The Bell Jar months ago and was unable to finish. I'm hoping knowing a bit of her history will help me A bit too long and detailed for my liking, but very informative. I highlighted numerous passages I want to further explore...her poems, women who inspired her, etc. I'm still not quite sure about how I feel about her...while definitely suffering from mental illness, it seemed her inability to just be content with herself or in her life brought on a lot of the problems she encountered. I started The Bell Jar months ago and was unable to finish. I'm hoping knowing a bit of her history will help me appreciate it like I should. It is next, so we shall see.

  22. 4 out of 5

    SJ Knight

    Great Read I didn't know much about Sylvia Plath's life before picking up this book but most everyone knows about her death. I wanted to know about her life and this book did its job. It was depressing at times reading it which is expected given the subject but very interesting read that was hard to put down.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Giragosian

    The lack of psychological insight and understanding of the constrictive patriarchal world in which Plath lived made this biography a disappointment. Sentences like this are symptomatic: "Marriage might have been easier had either Ted or Sylvia...been more willing to take on traditional gender roles."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Concise Loved it! Concise but complete. Recommend to someone who wants something shorter to read. Also, does not speculate on Ted and Sylvia which I liked because a lot of it is conjecture.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    Very detailed and very insightful. It definitely make Plaths’ work more accessible. It is in parts a bit too detailed. You kinda lose yourself in names of people and poems. But it is probably the best record of Sylvia Plaths’ life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eve1972

    Beautiful biography, Sylvia suffered so much in her life. I wish her relationship with Ted was discussed in more detail, it must have been tough for her. A literary genius and a complex person. I recognised the connections between her poems and the events that happened in her life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maj-Britt Hvidkvist

    Interesting read All the quotations and names chopped the reading flow up a bit. Still a very interesting insight into what her life was like.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    A good read A good read about Sylvia Plath and her work. A very enjoyable and enlightening book. It gives one insight on the woman that was Sylvia Plath.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bruna Rangel

    "The loss of it, the terrible loss of the more she could have done."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    A well-researched biography about one of the greatest poets of the 20th century.

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