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Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath Hardcover – May 12, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (May 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312315988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312315986
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.5 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,230,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I met her after she and her husband Ted Hughes had parted. We quickly became friends but only for the last few months of her life. She was lonely, almost friendless as well as husbandless. The flattering courtiers had departed with the king." —from Giving Up

“Jillian Becker fits in more good sense and compassion on the subject of Sylvia Plath than books ten times as long.”—The Independent (London)

About the Author

Jillian Becker is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including The PLO and Hitler’s Children. She lives in England.

Customer Reviews

Plath wasn't an anti-semite.
BrainDead
Hughes was desperate to relieve himself of guilt, claiming everyone hated Sylvia, but Jillian Becker responded that had not hated Sylvia.
Ada Ardor
I cannot imagine anything sadder than that.
Clara Luna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By PonyExpress on January 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you're interested enough in the life of Sylvia Plath-the life she mined so deeply and painfully in her unforgettable poems-to read more than one of the many biographies in print about her, I think this book, though obviously very slim-is a worthy addition to the reams of prose and supplementary material about Plath. And it is a *supplement*, not exactly a complete book in its own right. Not that there's anything wrong with that: Ms. Becker is a very different, very individual voice among the others who knew Sylvia, very much her own person-another writer, another mother, not a genius, but definitely a friend-and frankly, the sort of friend Plath desperately needed, and one we'd all be well-off to be able to turn to in despair, as Sylvia famously(well, it's famous *now*)did in the last days of her life. Some of the observations here, never repeated anywhere else, are indeed "haunting": the wearying task of sitting up all night with an emotionally disturbed girlfriend, at wit's end about exactly what to do; the unsettling visit of Becker to Plath's apartment to fetch neccessary items, finding the place eerily clean and apparently empty of children's clothes(Plath had two toddlers); the abrupt changes in Plath's moods, the memory of Sylvia, dressed to the nines, about to go out on the next-to-last evening of her life for a mysterious "date"(with her husband? with another suitor? We'll never know)stopping at the door to smile down at her baby son and tell him warmly, "I love you"-these are the sorts of observations that could come firsthand from only an intimate, if not a longterm friend. The memories regarding Ted Hughes' behaviour after Plath's suicide are something else again-quite a shock, and also quite believeable. You won't find much of that elswhere, either.Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A measured and moving account of Sylvia Plath's final hours, as well as a keen portrait of Ted Hughes's egotism and denial. Jillian Becker proves herself a loyal yet honest friend, even though her relationship with Plath was brief. I've already read this slim book twice. I find it haunting.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By K. Hinton VINE VOICE on December 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Best line: "Just as kindness is inadequate, and beauty hard to bear, happiness itself can be intolerable."

In Jillian Becker's Giving Up, she revisits the last moments she spent with her friend, Sylvia Plath. Her memories are solid at times and shaky at others, but she is quick to note when she doesn't recall an event in detail. Giving Up is only 73 pages and I read it in under an hour. Still, Becker's words resonate with the time and thought it took her to get to a point where she can write about her friend from the perspective of someone who shared her last moments. Becker mentions other Plath biographers who asked her to tell them her story, but apparently none did it to her satisfaction or with the degree of accuracy she felt was necessary, causing her to write this little book. As someone who is fascinated with the legend that Sylvia Plath's life and death has become, this book was fulfilling and full of useful information. However, it's not a novel, and Becker's views are definitely skewed to paint Ted Hughes as the bad guy in their marriage as well as the ultimate cause of Plath's untimely death (not a new notion, by any means, but I haven't seen it written before with such malice). That being said, I did think this book was worthwhile for anyone who likes Sylvia Plath and is fascinated by the mystery surrounding her life and death.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cornflake Girl on December 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do find most reviewers glean the wrong thing from this book. Jillian Becker KNEW Sylvia Plath, knew her personally-- went to her home, gathered her belongings, allowed Plath to stay in her home, she even took care of Plath's children when Sylvia could not find the will to do so herself.

Another thing people misunderstand is the notion of suicide. If you are looking for the answer to WHY..the big WHY she "did it" then you have very little understanding of Sylvia herself, depression, and suicide. This book is not going to tie up any loose ends or give anyone anything they didn't have before--that's not what it's supposed to do...

It's a way of filling in the gaps; where the previous biographers, journalists, reporters, only knew the Plath they saw, spoke to, -- that which was reflected in her poetry -- no one really knew her like a good old friend, a friend that Jillian Becker was.

Beware: Becker is very honest, which is a good thing but some may not view it as such.

The book is very short, and rightfully so. Only a small amount of time (I believe it's 3 days or so) is covered here, and that's perfect. The back cover of the book contains a review from "The Independent" (London) which puts it perfectly: "Jillian Becker fits in more good sense and compassion on the subject of Sylvia Plath than books ten times as long."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Conaway on October 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've read plenty of books about the late Sylvia Plath and her tumultuous relationship with poet Ted Hughes. This book may not be a necessity to my library, but I don't regret having bought it. Becker provides some interesting, insightful remarks on Plath's last days. She paints a dead-on portrait of the despair and emotional trauma Plath was suffering during their last meeting. One line in particular that stands out is when Becker remarks on Plath's priorities being off-kilter, claiming that she was a writer first and a mother next. As harsh as it struck me at first, it actually helped me to realize that Becker is not only writing from a sentimental standpoint, but from the "one who has been left behind" perspective as well. She makes no apologies. Did Sylvia commit suicide because she was confident her death would make her a legend? It would seem that she did possess such confidence. Becker seems to think so as well. But this isn't the overriding message of the book. Jillian Becker misses her friend, a woman who never laughed in her company but reached out to her in the end. Neither held on tight enough.
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