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Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath

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Since her suicide at age thirty, Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) has been celebrated for her impeccable and ruthless poetry. Rough Magic probes the events of Plath's life, including her turbulent marriage to the poet Ted Hughes.


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Since her suicide at age thirty, Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) has been celebrated for her impeccable and ruthless poetry. Rough Magic probes the events of Plath's life, including her turbulent marriage to the poet Ted Hughes.

30 review for Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath

  1. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    I think it was a shit book, only made somewhat interesting by the subject matter itself. I do not wish to go on, as many others have already explained why the author chose not to quote from basically ANY actual material, but what this left the reader with was the most simplistic, vacuous paraphrasing of an entire book length work! To make matters worse (and this part is not the authors fault) I just keep becoming more and more pissed off at Ted. I suppose this is because it's the third book in I think it was a shit book, only made somewhat interesting by the subject matter itself. I do not wish to go on, as many others have already explained why the author chose not to quote from basically ANY actual material, but what this left the reader with was the most simplistic, vacuous paraphrasing of an entire book length work! To make matters worse (and this part is not the authors fault) I just keep becoming more and more pissed off at Ted. I suppose this is because it's the third book in row I have read around the same subjects. I suppose it was fueled further by 400 pages of Entertainment Tonight reporting...but after both the lead up to, and the actual even of Plaths' death having been hurriedly swept over, I found myself left with the images of Hughes making himself a rich little life off of her talent...which, by the way, you will have to read this with all of her work at hand to actually be privy to such talent... Look, I do not imagine it to be any easy task, writing a bio of Plath, especially after reading Malcom's book (with one eyebrow suspiciously raised). And perhaps academia has nestled itself too far into my brain, but I just don't understand HOW you can write a biography on a poet such as Plath, and NOT quote (QUOTE!) any of her work, nor her own comments, letters etc, and have it be substantial to the reader, and do justice to her life. That's all.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I remember reading this back at the turn of the century, and I thought, "meh" then. I wonder why they reprinted it in 2003? Maybe because everybody threw their copies away and they wanted a few left around for posterity. A disservice to the troubled soul of Sylvia Plath.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Felicia

    I first read this book a few years ago as I was first discovering my fascination with Sylvia Plath and her poetry when I wanted to know more about her life. Truthfully, this is the only biography of Sylvia that I've ever read and, really, as it is the only biography untainted by Ted Hughes' control that I know of, probably the only one I will read. Perhaps that makes me biased. So be it. The fact that this was brought about by the author seeking out the counsel of Sylvia's mother, Aurelia, only I first read this book a few years ago as I was first discovering my fascination with Sylvia Plath and her poetry when I wanted to know more about her life. Truthfully, this is the only biography of Sylvia that I've ever read and, really, as it is the only biography untainted by Ted Hughes' control that I know of, probably the only one I will read. Perhaps that makes me biased. So be it. The fact that this was brought about by the author seeking out the counsel of Sylvia's mother, Aurelia, only seals that further for me as she wouldn't be seeking to keep misdeeds muddied and hidden as Hughes was. Frankly, I envy the author that he got the opportunity to get to know Plath through the eyes of her mother, both the good and the bad things. Back when I first read this, I loved the honesty of it. This book, to me, did not paint Sylvia up to be some angel. Instead, I could feel the author's love for her even as he wrote of the events of Sylvia's life with refreshing objectivity. Which is what makes me shake my head when I see the harshly negative comments about this book. To each their own, really. But my personal opinion is that this book satisfies the curiosity of anyone who loves Sylvia Plath enough to want to know as much about her life as possible rather than just feeding the "peanut crunchers" who are only mainly taken with her because of her tragic suicide. I think this book does Sylvia Plath the justice and understanding she deserved in life and still deserves in death.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Sparks

    A beautiful and necessary work. I don’t have a lot to say of critical importance about her life or the treatment of it in this text, other than that Alexander possesses the right mix of technical ability and humility for the work. I was in high school when first introduced to Plath’s writing. I do not recall what poem or book it was. Only her name and the importance and sincerity people attached to her, and that there was some connection to Northampton were very clear. It was much later that I A beautiful and necessary work. I don’t have a lot to say of critical importance about her life or the treatment of it in this text, other than that Alexander possesses the right mix of technical ability and humility for the work. I was in high school when first introduced to Plath’s writing. I do not recall what poem or book it was. Only her name and the importance and sincerity people attached to her, and that there was some connection to Northampton were very clear. It was much later that I discovered Fever 103 and fell in love with her work. It is a somber thing to revisit an old friend, in the way that bonds can be made through writing, and with new eyes (in this book and me being 35) perceive their struggles, and yet able to do nothing all over again. Alexander is an apt guide.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    All Plath biographies labor under the obstacles that Olwyn and Ted Hughes threw up in the name of "privacy," as well as friends', family members', and acquaintances' revisionist--and often biased--memories of the couple, but Alexander's biography (2003) is recent enough to have access to some of the primary resources opening up, so out of the many, I find it the best, especially when coupled with Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1995), which, while focusing on Anne All Plath biographies labor under the obstacles that Olwyn and Ted Hughes threw up in the name of "privacy," as well as friends', family members', and acquaintances' revisionist--and often biased--memories of the couple, but Alexander's biography (2003) is recent enough to have access to some of the primary resources opening up, so out of the many, I find it the best, especially when coupled with Janet Malcolm's The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes (1995), which, while focusing on Anne Stevenson's Bitter Fame, gives excellent overviews of all the biographies to date. On this 50th anniversary of Plath's suicide and in light of Hughes' 1998 death from cancer and Nicholas Hughes' 2009 suicide, it is still a family tragedy that sparks intense interest and rabid opinions.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eileen aka "Lee"

    During 2006 and 2008 I was overcome with desire to revisit the life of Sylvia Plath, the American poet who killed herself in England in 1963 at the age of 32. She left a manuscript of the collection of poems called Ariel (and two tiny children). That was the beginning of her legacy and cult status. The irony was that her estranged husband, Ted Hughes, later poet laureate of England, became inextricably tied to her mother in overseeing the publication and restrictive use of her work. For the rest During 2006 and 2008 I was overcome with desire to revisit the life of Sylvia Plath, the American poet who killed herself in England in 1963 at the age of 32. She left a manuscript of the collection of poems called Ariel (and two tiny children). That was the beginning of her legacy and cult status. The irony was that her estranged husband, Ted Hughes, later poet laureate of England, became inextricably tied to her mother in overseeing the publication and restrictive use of her work. For the rest of his life, Ted was tied to Sylvia,and his last work was the collected poems of " Birthday Letters" a transparent effort to explain his life with Sylvia. The public always blamed him for her death.His mistress, Assia Wevill, killed herself and their baby in 1968 by gas. (Read Lover of Unreason) Rough Magic is a superb and comprehensive story of her life--the brilliance, the education at Wellesly and Oxford, the mental illness and suicide attempts--but mostly it is about the making of a poet finally worn down by the travails of marriage, parenthood, jealousy,mental illness, the betrayal of her husband and a particularly cold winter in London, 1962. The book adheres to what has become the myth of Plath. Ariel shows she was a great poet. My generation all read "The Bell Jar" in 1963, the story of her mental breakdown at 19. Ariel, unlike any of her poems before, is a raging, uniquely imaginative, energetic (with the self-destructive urge, it's been said), ultimately resigned expression of her life, children, suicide attempts. My favorite poems are Ariel, literally understood to describe an early morning horse-ride towards the rising sun, and Edge, thought to be her last poem, its images are all feminine, a body closing back upon itself, enfolding embryos within her body, perfected, resigned in death. Came upon a DVD movie "PLATH" starring Gywneth Paltrow and Daniel Craig. Though mental illness and tragedy are the inevitable ends, the story of the making of a poet, the landscapes of their early love, the assumed genius of lovers, the intellectual rigor and joy of her life, and the myth, the icon of the poet,leaving behind her masterpiece--it's magic. Favorite scene--Plath floating up the river with Ted, reciting Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath” to cows in Middle English.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Erin WV

    A great read. The stage-setting elements are not always rigorous: Alexander would mention figures in passing as though they had been introduced before, though according to the index and my memory, they had not been. Also there was occasionally a lack of clarity as to where Sylvia is living or working at any given point. However, Alexander's prose is flowing and dramatic in a way that serves Plath's troubled and artistic history well. And certainly his research must have been extensive to include A great read. The stage-setting elements are not always rigorous: Alexander would mention figures in passing as though they had been introduced before, though according to the index and my memory, they had not been. Also there was occasionally a lack of clarity as to where Sylvia is living or working at any given point. However, Alexander's prose is flowing and dramatic in a way that serves Plath's troubled and artistic history well. And certainly his research must have been extensive to include the details he does: which dates she wrote which poems, how much she paid in rent in the apartment that would be her last, and so on. Though Alexander clearly reveres Plath, he doesn't gloss over the more abrasive parts of her personality. Neither does he focus only on her depressive and impulsive nature. We get a really full picture of this woman: ambitious and industrious about her writing, she wears herself out writing around her schoolwork, and later her marriage and her children. Social but somewhat self-involved, she racks up friends and boyfriends but generally disappoints them. As for Ted Hughes, Alexander does not demonize him, though he doesn't go too far towards vindicating him either. Let Hughes's biographers take care of that. I'll need to reread The Bell Jar soon.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kirk

    This is probably the least famous of the Plath biographies, if only because it didn't cause a slew of court cases or international incidents. Linda Wagner-Martin's SYLVIA PLATH was gutted by the Plath estate, Janet Malcom's THE SILENT WOMAN is a meta-biography, and Anne Stevenson's BITTER FAME is just plain bizarre---all are fascinating reads in their own right, but for class prep Alexander's tends to be the one I turn to. It doesn't quote Plath's personal papers, mainly to avoid the legal This is probably the least famous of the Plath biographies, if only because it didn't cause a slew of court cases or international incidents. Linda Wagner-Martin's SYLVIA PLATH was gutted by the Plath estate, Janet Malcom's THE SILENT WOMAN is a meta-biography, and Anne Stevenson's BITTER FAME is just plain bizarre---all are fascinating reads in their own right, but for class prep Alexander's tends to be the one I turn to. It doesn't quote Plath's personal papers, mainly to avoid the legal issues that hampered Wagner-Martin. It's also well-balanced and doesn't go gunning for Hughes. Some will say it's too tame, but sometimes a tame tone lets the reader find his/her own interpretation of events.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Alexander

    My brother, Paul, wrote this book so I've read it more times than i can remember. I am of course a huge fan of everything Plath wrote and have read her poems and the Bell Jar numerous times. The book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a brilliant young woman who i think is so popular because so many people can identify with her plight. Her death was a devastating loss to the literary world and the fact that she-at times-doubted her abilities as a writer make her all the more intriguing. I My brother, Paul, wrote this book so I've read it more times than i can remember. I am of course a huge fan of everything Plath wrote and have read her poems and the Bell Jar numerous times. The book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a brilliant young woman who i think is so popular because so many people can identify with her plight. Her death was a devastating loss to the literary world and the fact that she-at times-doubted her abilities as a writer make her all the more intriguing. I am very proud of my brother and this book, which I believe is the best Plath biography written thus far.

  10. 5 out of 5

    The Couch Wanderers

    ***For my full review go to thecouchwanderers.com*** I have been fascinated by Sylvia Plath since high school and always admired her works. I read the Bell Jar at a very influential part of my life, and it has stuck with me ever since then. This fascination with Sylvia Plath is what inspired me to read a biography of her life. I had always heard that her works were almost biographical, and I wanted to see how true that assessment was. That being said, Rough Magic told me everything that I wanted ***For my full review go to thecouchwanderers.com*** I have been fascinated by Sylvia Plath since high school and  always admired her works.  I read the Bell Jar at a very influential part of my life, and it has stuck with me ever since then.  This fascination with Sylvia Plath is what inspired me to read a biography of her life.  I had always heard that her works were almost biographical, and I wanted to see how true that assessment was.  That being said, Rough Magic told me everything that I wanted to know about Plath and so much more. The so much more is what I think is the problem with this book.  A biography is supposed to cover all of the relevant information, but it seems that Rough Magic covers a lot of irrelevant information as well.   A perfect example of this is when the author was covering Plath's time as a guest editor and it listed all nineteen of the other guest editors as well as their colleges.  It takes up half the page!  That is only one example of many where irrelevant information was included when it could have been left out to create a more condensed and easier read biography.  The inclusion of these minor details seemed to take away from the book's base purpose.  Additionally, throughout the book I couldn't help but wonder how Sylvia would feel about the complete airing of her life.  It is one thing to cover the information that is common knowledge.  Her father's death and the impact, her suicide attempt, her publishing history, her marriage, and lastly, her successful suicide.  But Rough Magic includes every one of Sylvia's dates, every rejection from magazines, etc.  I don't know how I would feel if someone wrote a story about me and included every single date that I had ever been on.  Yeah, they've played a part in who I am, but they are completely irrelevant in the big picture that is my life.  Another issue that I have with the book is the complete exclusion of the works of Sylvia Plath.  This is explained during the intro of the book and it can be attributed to Ted Hughes, Sylvia's husband, owning all of the rights to her work, but it seemed like a disservice to read a biography of her life without including any of her life's work.  Rough Magic does included poem references but unless you have a "Complete Works of Sylvia Plath" on hand then you can't really get an accurate feeling for the works.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Paul Ferguson

    I think my feelings about Sylvia Plath began to normalize after reading this book. I had been a overly enthusiastic Plath fan, but , with this book, I just lost some of the deification I once had . She was obviously talented, brilliant, and driven . She was also selfish, ridgid, and petty. Since much of her mystique is centered around her suicide and this notion of ruined potential , we tend to re narrate events to make ted Hughes a villain and to fill in the gaps of her work with the I think my feelings about Sylvia Plath began to normalize after reading this book. I had been a overly enthusiastic Plath fan, but , with this book, I just lost some of the deification I once had . She was obviously talented, brilliant, and driven . She was also selfish, ridgid, and petty. Since much of her mystique is centered around her suicide and this notion of ruined potential , we tend to re narrate events to make ted Hughes a villain and to fill in the gaps of her work with the expectation of the talent she could exhibit . I I love her work more than most . I love some of her stuff that others gloss over, but given her body of work — the incompleteness of it — she at best could be considered an uneven poet who never realized her potential.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Dows

    Alexander has managed to create an impressively thorough summary of the thirty tumultuous years that comprised Sylvia Plath's life. With such controversy surrounding Plath's work, posthumous work, and handling of her estate, Alexander remains fair and impartial, flattering to no one person in particular. He neither condemns Hughes nor pardons him, and the foreward provides reasons why this may be.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Holtzclaw

    i don't remember when i became fascinated with sylvia plath. it must've been early in my college career, think; somewhere between discovering her poetry and reading the bell jar. this biography was a touching yet honest picture of her life. i've been making my way through her journals for two years now, but this was a nice outside perspective that really showed how human sylvia was. i will forever admire her and her work, and know that she had so much more to say.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Claire Christopher

    This bio did such a good job of shedding light on Sylvia’s life as a person, a student, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a writer and poet who was so dedicated to her craft. It was enlightening and heart-wrenching, and I loved it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Finnegan

    I was first introduced to the poetry of Sylvia Plath when I was in my late teens. I had read some of Ted Hughes poems a couple of years before. For whatever, I read poetry under my grandparents tutelage, (I have never been told why my parents guidance was deemed inadequate) and I remember my grandfather telling me when I brought him my prized Faber and Faber edition of Selected Poems by Sylvia Plath that "Ted Hughes was not good to her." This books avoids the Plath/Hughes that has plagued so many I was first introduced to the poetry of Sylvia Plath when I was in my late teens. I had read some of Ted Hughes poems a couple of years before. For whatever, I read poetry under my grandparents tutelage, (I have never been told why my parents guidance was deemed inadequate) and I remember my grandfather telling me when I brought him my prized Faber and Faber edition of Selected Poems by Sylvia Plath that "Ted Hughes was not good to her." This books avoids the Plath/Hughes that has plagued so many other biographers but focusing on how Plath's poems came into being and then came to be read after her death. Plath of both of her time and before her time. Never really free to explore her sexuality, and never empowered enough to be truly independent. Whatever the sordid details of the Hughes' marriage was, the fact that Ted mistreated Sylvia clearly wasn't a secret, and it is surprising that Ted Hughes worked so hard to hide the fact. Still, I don't believe he drove his wide to suicide, I think in other circumstances Sylvia Plath would still have tried to end her own life. As Paul Alexander writes, "No matter what, Hughes could not escape the consequences of his life with Sylvia."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Wowza, I don't really know how to review the life of Sylvia Plath. Kind of a big topic. But in general, I enjoyed the book, especially the later chapters. I did feel that the author focused a lot on events and not as much on analysis as I would've liked. Especially when he detailed Sylvia's flings as a teenager, it was almost like I was reading a agenda where she marked what day she went out and with whom. It was all a bit too event-y for me, which always makes me critical of biographies, Wowza, I don't really know how to review the life of Sylvia Plath. Kind of a big topic. But in general, I enjoyed the book, especially the later chapters. I did feel that the author focused a lot on events and not as much on analysis as I would've liked. Especially when he detailed Sylvia's flings as a teenager, it was almost like I was reading a agenda where she marked what day she went out and with whom. It was all a bit too event-y for me, which always makes me critical of biographies, because they're so hard to make in a non-event-y way. (Yeah, I know, I should be an author, I have such an eloquent way with words.) Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed knowing more about Sylvia Plath, and it really inspired me to reread her works. She was a fascinating person and poet and the only thing that sucks is that a lot of people only get famous when they're dead. What also sucks is Ted Hughes. He sucks big time. Read this book! Read Sylvia Plath's works! Please please please do yourself this ginormous favour!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Destiny

    I started this book near the end of last year. I had bought the ebook a few months back but I didn't start on it right away. When I started reading this I grew more interested in Sylvia. It's safe to say that I already had an interest since I bought journals, then the collected poems, and then finally this. But it wasn't until I dug into the bio that I really became fascinated with Sylvia. Her life at the surface seems so different from mine. She's from New England, both her parents were I started this book near the end of last year. I had bought the ebook a few months back but I didn't start on it right away. When I started reading this I grew more interested in Sylvia. It's safe to say that I already had an interest since I bought journals, then the collected poems, and then finally this. But it wasn't until I dug into the bio that I really became fascinated with Sylvia. Her life at the surface seems so different from mine. She's from New England, both her parents were professors. But I was struck how similar we seemed. Both academic and literary minded. While I was reading the bio I dug into the journals again. It literally felt to me like it was something I would write. I just connected with her. This book has given me a greater knowledge of her and has truly made me appreciate her work. I also like Alexander's writing style. It was very readable and I liked the structure of it. For my first book of 2014 I'm glad it was this one.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    The best and most sympathetic biography written about this amazing poet. Regarding Ted Hughes and their relationship, Alexander doesn't gloss over events. Toward the end, Alexander focuses on the things that led Plath to the depression and despair she probably felt while writing Ariel and that led to her death by suicide. Alexander leaves hardly any stone unturned in exploring her tragic death. He speculates in the book that Hughes may have hypnotized Plath, urging her to kill herself. The two The best and most sympathetic biography written about this amazing poet. Regarding Ted Hughes and their relationship, Alexander doesn't gloss over events. Toward the end, Alexander focuses on the things that led Plath to the depression and despair she probably felt while writing Ariel and that led to her death by suicide. Alexander leaves hardly any stone unturned in exploring her tragic death. He speculates in the book that Hughes may have hypnotized Plath, urging her to kill herself. The two did practice hypnotism, Alexander writes, and according to him, Hughes and his lover at the time had suggested to Plath in the last weeks of her life that she ought to kill herself. They moved into Plath's apartment where she had committed suicide only days afterward. Sometime after moving in, Hughes destroyed the journal Plath had kept while writing many of her greatest poems. Though Plath was only 31 when she died, her best writing is among the best written in the 20th century.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Boyana

    I read this in one night along with The Bell Jar before I had to write an essay on both books the next morning and reading them together gave me a much more complete view both of Sylvia Plath's life and her fiction. It sounds quite cheesy but I did read these books at the exact right time in my life and I just remember being left a wreck at 6AM left in some sort of exhausted void by the account of Sylvia Plath's suicide. I don't read too many biographies as I tend to find them quite flat and I read this in one night along with The Bell Jar before I had to write an essay on both books the next morning and reading them together gave me a much more complete view both of Sylvia Plath's life and her fiction. It sounds quite cheesy but I did read these books at the exact right time in my life and I just remember being left a wreck at 6AM left in some sort of exhausted void by the account of Sylvia Plath's suicide. I don't read too many biographies as I tend to find them quite flat and that's part of the reason why I chose to pair this with The Bell Jar and I do recommend that as a way to read it as it definitely adds more to the picture that Paul Alexander presents. One gripe I do have with it is that it is quite biased against Ted Hughes which I don't quite know what to make of...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom Ukinski

    Presents the brief and troubled life of one of the great poets of our time. This book also gives the reader an idea of how social mores and societal pressures of the 1950s in America acted as such an oppressive force on women, and hindered them from manifesting their innate gifts and wisdom. Unfortunately, the author was prevented from quoting from Sylvia Plath's work, because of restrictions placed upon use of her work by Ted Hughes, but, happily, these can be obtained elsewhere. The book does Presents the brief and troubled life of one of the great poets of our time. This book also gives the reader an idea of how social mores and societal pressures of the 1950s in America acted as such an oppressive force on women, and hindered them from manifesting their innate gifts and wisdom. Unfortunately, the author was prevented from quoting from Sylvia Plath's work, because of restrictions placed upon use of her work by Ted Hughes, but, happily, these can be obtained elsewhere. The book does seem to portray Ted Hughes as the primary villain, and downplays the incredibly debilitating effect that her mental illness had on her life. There may be other biographies with a more balanced approach in that regard. But, that said, this book is a well-written, intensely engrossing story of a brilliant writer.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    It was...okay. I think I was biased coming into this book because I don't care about Sylvia Plath that much, and I am not much of a historicist. The first half was almost unreadable - all it did was obsess over her social life in junior high and college. The second half was better when it talked about the Ted Hughes, but was still glacially paced. I understand that Plath's life was pretty short so there was not much to write about, but my problem with the book is that it's too mediated. No It was...okay. I think I was biased coming into this book because I don't care about Sylvia Plath that much, and I am not much of a historicist. The first half was almost unreadable - all it did was obsess over her social life in junior high and college. The second half was better when it talked about the Ted Hughes, but was still glacially paced. I understand that Plath's life was pretty short so there was not much to write about, but my problem with the book is that it's too mediated. No voices in the biography except the author's, and the author doesn't have a particularly engaging prose style. (I know this doesn't matter for a lot of people, especially for biographies, but it matters to me.) My favorite part was the center spread with the old photographs of Sylvia and her various friends and boyfriends. God she was a knockout.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    The first half of this book was a little disappointing. The author got so caught up in Plath's social life and activities throughout college that he didn't really talk about her growth as a writer or a person. Her suicide attempt doesn't really make sense in the context of his story of her life, because he only talks about petty fights she has with other girls or breakups with her many boyfriends. However, once the book got around to describing Plath's adult life, her marriage to Ted Hughes, and The first half of this book was a little disappointing. The author got so caught up in Plath's social life and activities throughout college that he didn't really talk about her growth as a writer or a person. Her suicide attempt doesn't really make sense in the context of his story of her life, because he only talks about petty fights she has with other girls or breakups with her many boyfriends. However, once the book got around to describing Plath's adult life, her marriage to Ted Hughes, and her experiences as a female poet, it was much more interesting and relevant. It is kind of depressing though, that he wasn't allowed to quote any of her work in the book. I looked up some of the poems online as I was reading about them, but I think if they were included it would have made the book much more complete.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Ever since I read "The Bell Jar" - one of the best-written books I've ever read - I have been interested in Sylvia Plath. I appreciate that the writer didn't use quotes from her works because he didn't want to have to get approval for what he wrote from Ted Hughes' estate. It was somewhat tedious reading, at times, as it seemed like he was writing from her calendar. "On Monday she had lunch with X, on Tuesday she gardened." For example. It does seem to set out the facts of her life, and some of Ever since I read "The Bell Jar" - one of the best-written books I've ever read - I have been interested in Sylvia Plath. I appreciate that the writer didn't use quotes from her works because he didn't want to have to get approval for what he wrote from Ted Hughes' estate. It was somewhat tedious reading, at times, as it seemed like he was writing from her calendar. "On Monday she had lunch with X, on Tuesday she gardened." For example. It does seem to set out the facts of her life, and some of the "whys". But I miss the depth that comes from her writing. And I couldn't help but wonder throughout what was missing, what was the whole picture. I guess I need to read more of her poems.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    While some of the facts do not seem to match up with those published elsewhere, I have come to the understanding that "fact" is a relative term and that no biographies will every completely mirror others on the same subject (for many reasons), especially biographies of Plath and those around her. Having said all of that, this book is the best I've read on Plath so far. It is remarkably balanced--there is little outright animosity toward Ted Hughes and not much cover-up when it comes to Plath's While some of the facts do not seem to match up with those published elsewhere, I have come to the understanding that "fact" is a relative term and that no biographies will every completely mirror others on the same subject (for many reasons), especially biographies of Plath and those around her. Having said all of that, this book is the best I've read on Plath so far. It is remarkably balanced--there is little outright animosity toward Ted Hughes and not much cover-up when it comes to Plath's shortcomings. I greatly appreciate Alexander's attempt to maintain his distance from his subject and enjoyed this book--and found it useful--because of that distance.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Have always had an interest in Sylvia Plath, but this is the first biography I have read. Author says it has been described as sympathetic to Plath and he takes that as a compliment. He also did not seek permission from Plath estate and so was unable to directly quote - leaves much open to his interpretation. Both these points are made clear in the intro, so I read this with them in mind. Interested to read others to see comparison.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Slotto

    This took me over a month to plough through. The author did extensive research including Plath's diary. There was a compelling aspect to this talented poet's story but the amount of details Alexander included made it a tedious journey. I think he must have covered every date she had and the menus for way too many meals. The book could be pared down to a 3rd of its size and still inform the reader adequately.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin George

    Of all the biographies I've read of Syvia's life, this one is the stand out. The detail that Alexander uses is unbelievable - almost so much that the book reads as fictionalized. This book made me feel as though I was there, watching, as Sylvia navigated through a twisted world, filled with ups and downs. Thank you so much for this amazing read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    This felt like a social calendar. A very sympathetic retelling of What Plath Did. Not why, and glosses over some parts of her life. Aurelia Plath comes off looking good, which doesn't sound right. Great snips of correspondence included in text - the only reason why this gets a pass. And this is probably one of the better biographies of Plath.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Keshia Driscoll-Cook

    As a biography this book seems a bit off. I felt like quite a bit was left out and I tended to get lost in some of the directions that the author was going. I felt that I better understood Sylvia Plath by reading her journals and poems. It was ok.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Angela Wade

    Absolutely worth the read. The only things lacking were more photographs and clarification of a few vague, but critically important statements (in particular about Alvarez's use of the word "gamble" and Ted's subsequent denial).

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