Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted

Andrew Wilson

Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted

On 25 February 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter - now one of the most famous in all literary history - was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a 'big, dark, hunky boy'. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured Plath's life and work. Mad Girl's Love Song traces through Plath's early years the sources of her mental instabilities and examines how a range of personal, economic and societal factors - the real disquieting muses - conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet. 3.6 out of 5 based on 6 reviews
Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography, Literary Studies & Criticism
Format
Pages 448
RRP
Date of Publication January 2013
ISBN 978-0857205889
Publisher Simon & Schuster
 

On 25 February 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter - now one of the most famous in all literary history - was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a 'big, dark, hunky boy'. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured Plath's life and work. Mad Girl's Love Song traces through Plath's early years the sources of her mental instabilities and examines how a range of personal, economic and societal factors - the real disquieting muses - conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet.

Reviews

The Daily Express

Jake Kerridge

Reading about her life has often made me feel like the heroine of her novel The Bell Jar, a character who takes pleasure in gawking at traffic accidents and street fights. With Wilson’s excellent book one feels differently: that a balance is being redressed and at last Plath has found a biographer who can resist the temptation to turn her life into soap opera.

10/02/2013

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The New York Times

Adam Kirsch

Most important, Wilson’s chronicle of Plath’s early relationships with boys and men allows readers in a very different era to understand the regime of repression and hypocrisy under which she suffered … Wilson reminds us why feminism is the indispensable context for understanding Plath’s work and reception, just as Romanticism was for Byron.

08/02/2013

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The Sunday Telegraph

Claudia Fitzherbert

The question that demands to be asked of Plath is where the rage came from and at whom, ultimately, it was directed. In Wilson’s version, she is a seething child of the sexual hypocrisy of Fifties America, desperate for experience, terrified of commitment and the relation of wifehood to writing, but also too competitive to let go of conventional goals ... here is progress: a book that makes a case for rage, without picking a fight with Hughes.

12/02/2013

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The Sunday Times

John Carey

There are unpublished poems, he claims, that show she developed her “disturbing, horrific, transgressive” voice years before Hughes showed up. He gives some of their titles — including the one he uses as the title of his book, which he says was a favourite of Plath’s. But he never quotes them — perhaps because of difficulties with the Plath estate — which leaves a hole in his argument. Despite that, this is a refreshingly inquiring book, uncovering new, intimate perspectives on Plath’s life, and skilfully evoking the atmosphere of 1950s Ivy League college life with its rituals, inhibitions and brittle sophistication. It has the tautness of the first act of a great tragedy, where we see the hand of fate moving the pieces into place.

10/02/2013

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The Times

Erica Wagner

Thoughtful … [It] was written without the co-operation of the Plath estate and so is almost entirely devoid of the subject’s own words, although notes and references are scrupulous. If you want any kind of sense, however, of how Plath expressed herself, you would do best to read this book with other books beside you: the journals, Letters Home, The Bell Jar, and of course the Collected Poems.

09/02/2013

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The Daily Telegraph

Anne Chisholm

This book succeeds in putting her marriage to Hughes in a new, less fateful perspective; but in the end, what matters most are the poems. All the rest is unreliable, merely evidence of our need to probe secrets and explore mysteries. This book tries hard to cast new light, but is marred by banal writing and misprints, of which the most egregious is to call one of her best-known poems “Lazy Lazarus”.

12/02/2013

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