Book News

Many volumes have been written about poet and author Sylvia Plath (1932-62), but much of the myth surrounding her has been filtered by, and focused on the years after her marriage to, fellow poet Ted Hughes--who some blame for her suicide. Drawing on unpublished papers and interviews with relatives, boyfriends, and former classmates at Smith College, journalist Wilson offers insights into her brilliance and mental illness prior to meeting Hughes. The title derives from one of Plath's favorite poems, which Hughes did not include in her Collected Poems. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Library Journal Reviews

Poet and novelist Plath (1932–63, Ariel; The Bell Jar) became a literary legend in part because of her highly personal writing and the publicity surrounding her suicide in 1964 at age 30. Unlike other biographies of Plath, journalist Wilson's (Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith; Harold Robbins) effort details her life before she met and married writer Ted Hughes, revealing the nuances of her desperate and success-driven personality. As a scholarship student at Smith College, Plath was writing for major periodicals, engaged in a highly active social life with men, and achieving high honors academically. Wilson draws heavily from Plath's diary entries to divulge her deeper struggles, particularly those with her mother. Her writings offer clues to the possible reasons for her breakdown, suggesting that personal insecurities, financial instability, and loss of her father were significant factors. VERDICT While Wilson takes readers inside the character of a gifted writer, the detailed accounts of Plath as a teenage socialite seem endless. Nonetheless, the biography succeeds in illuminating her exploits while making a significant contribution to Plath scholarship.—Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo, NY

[Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

To curtail fears that this latest Plath biography forges already blatant connections between her work and her torrid inner life or her relationship with Ted Hughes, be assured, it is something altogether new. Wilson (Beautiful Shadow) fulfills his title's promise, divulging her impressive string of romances, love-hate relationship with her mother, and "vampiric" interactions with those close to her, among other atypical and unconventional issues. While the significance of some seemingly frivolous details may appear momentous, it's refreshing that Wilson does not make Plath's suicide his focus, just as he examines her earlier, formative publications in magazines such Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal as often—if not more so—as he does her better known work. This is a rare biography whose narrative style is artful enough that its appeal will range from those who're utterly unfamiliar with Plath's work to those who've inundated themselves in it. Wilson incorporates previously unpublished correspondence, interviews, and creative work to bring to life a rarely illuminated time within a great mind. As he follows Plath in her search for identity and struggle with a threatening darkness, he casts her not as he would have her, but as she was. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (UK) (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

PW Annex Reviews

To curtail fears that this latest Plath biography forges already blatant connections between her work and her torrid inner life or her relationship with Ted Hughes, be assured, it is something altogether new. Wilson (Beautiful Shadow) fulfills his title's promise, divulging her impressive string of romances, love-hate relationship with her mother, and "vampiric" interactions with those close to her, among other atypical and unconventional issues. While the significance of some seemingly frivolous details may appear momentous, it's refreshing that Wilson does not make Plath's suicide his focus, just as he examines her earlier, formative publications in magazines such Seventeen, Mademoiselle, and Ladies Home Journal as often—if not more so—as he does her better known work. This is a rare biography whose narrative style is artful enough that its appeal will range from those who're utterly unfamiliar with Plath's work to those who've inundated themselves in it. Wilson incorporates previously unpublished correspondence, interviews, and creative work to bring to life a rarely illuminated time within a great mind. As he follows Plath in her search for identity and struggle with a threatening darkness, he casts her not as he would have her, but as she was. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander (UK) (Jan.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC