Are there any Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath fanatics out there? I’m admittedly very under-read on this front, and this book has definitely inspired me to read both of their work, particularly Birthday Letters by Hughes and The Bell Jar by Plath.
This book has a very striking premise: it’s the fictional reimagining of the love story and marriage between Hughes and Plath, which has almost reached mythological status in literary lore. Particularly, it grapples with the martyr status reached by Plath after she committed suicide, and how Hughes was blamed for her demise as a result of his adultery by feminists, friends, family and everyone in between. But it also gives a fictional angle to a relationship between two poets: the competition, support, jealousy and hardship that comes with seeing your partner succeed in exactly the way you wish to.
Written by Dutch author Connie Palmen, and translated to English by Eileen J. Stevens and Anna Asbury, we are taken through the turbulent, legendary relationship, giving Hughes a “voice”, since speculation is all anyone’s really had from his side over the years. That said, there’s a locked archive which he hand-delivered to Emory University which can only be opened in 2023 and I’m VERY excited to see/hear what’s in it.
I was sceptical of the premise, though relieved it was at least written by a woman and not taking a “but she’s CrAzY” approach to Plath’s agonising depression, but it’s been done really tenderly and is rooted in hefty research. The first and last quarter of the book were strong 5/5’s for me, but the middle section was quite hard to get through, but more as a result of the languid, poetic nature of the writing rather than there being something especially “wrong”.
I loved the book that lived under its dust jacket, so here are some photos of that, too. Have you ever found that you prefer to read a book without its jacket on?
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