PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • The highly anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.
“One of the most beautiful biographies I've ever read." —Glennon Doyle, author of #1 New York Times Bestseller, Untamed
With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials, Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant Sylvia Plath, who had precocious poetic ambition and was an accomplished published writer even before she became a star at Smith College. Refusing to read Plath’s work as if her every act was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark considers the sociopolitical context as she thoroughly explores Plath’s world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her troubles with an unenlightened mental health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes; and much more.
Clark’s clear-eyed portraits of Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath’s suicide promote a deeper understanding of her final days. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark’s meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world over.
Clark (The Grief of Influence: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes) offers a page-turning, meticulously researched biography of Sylvia Plath. Informed by never-before-accessed documents, Clark builds a narrative that gathers full force starting with Plath's ill-fated Mademoiselle internship at age 20, and continues through her career as an acclaimed poet, her marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes, and her suicide at age 30. Clarke highlights bestselling author Olive Higgins Prouty as a generous source of emotional and financial support throughout Plath's life, while casting doubts on the helpfulness of Ruth Barnhouse, Plath's close friend and her psychiatrist during the 1953 stay in a psychiatric ward that inspired her novel The Bell Jar. However, Clark places the greatest emphasis on the Hughes-Plath marriage, depicting it as a creatively charged and ultimately destructive partnership, in which Hughes's moments of gentleness and supportiveness existed alongside rage and abuse. Finally, Clark provides a new and convincing theory that Plath's suicide came about not impulsively, but in response to the possibility that she would again have to undergo the traumatic process of institutionalization. Clark's in-depth scholarship and fine writing result in a superb work that will deliver fresh revelations to Plath's many devoted fans.