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Sylvia and Ted Hardcover – May 12, 2001


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Product Details

  • Series: John MacRae Books
  • Hardcover: 177 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (May 12, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805066756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805066753
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,955,566 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the almost four decades since her suicide, Sylvia Plath has been idolized almost as much for her role as the deceived wife of Ted Hughes as for her poetic works. The couple's erotically charged meeting, initially idyllic marriage and later bitter estrangement are documented in Plath's journals and letters and in numerous nonfiction books. Before his death last year, Hughes published Birthday Poems, manifestly his version of their relationship. That there was a third party to their tragedy, Hughes's mistress, Assia Wevill, who herself committed suicide, has also been a matter of public record. Now British author Tennant, who memorialized her own relationship with Hughes in her memoir, Burnt Diaries (U.K., Canongate, 1999), imagines Sylvia's, Ted's and Assia's lives as told from each participant's point of view. As befits a story of a tragic love triangle among poets, Tennant writes lyrical and surcharged prose, with short chapters shot through with intense emotion. Though the narrative is initially overwrought and heavily portentous, she sustains the dramatically dark mood artfully, building to a fittingly mythic, cathartic ending. Her psychological insights into Plath's and Wevill's troubled personalities, which at first may seem gratuitously grim, shed light on their early experiences and emotional conditioning, and become more appropriate as Plath, Hughes and Wevill mature. Accelerating the dramatic suspense, Tennant alternates the feverish thoughts of three high-strung, complex personalities, and although the outcome is known, readers will feel the strong hand of fate in the collision of their passions and artistic ambitions. (May 12)Forecast: A must-read for Plath devotees, the novel also has enough appeal as well-crafted fiction to attract a discriminating audience of more general readers. It joins other recent (nonfiction) titles that have kindled fresh interest in the couple. Plath's unabridged diaries were published last year, and Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters is being released this month (Forecasts, Mar. 19).

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath continue to evoke debate and commentary. Novelist Tennant, who recounted her own affair with Hughes in Burnt Diaries, offers a brittle, fictionalized account of the lives of Hughes, Plath, and Assia Wevill, the other woman in Ted's life. (Ironically, Wevill also later killed herself.) Full of portents and omens, the story is a series of oblique passages and lyrical descriptions, all issued in a clipped cadence with edges as jagged as the lives examined. Tennant is unsparing and the story relentless in its decline into despair and death. For literary collections and public libraries where there is demand.
- Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lena Friesen on November 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Emma Tennant was one of Ted Hughes' mistresses in the 1970s; she published Burnt Diaries, her memoirs about Hughes, not long after his death. Now she has published a 'fictionalized' account of Sylvia, Ted and Assia.
I have been reading and studying about Plath for many years, and thus know quite a bit about her, and find the fictional portrait of her to be off, overripe. I don't know how much 'fiction' there is in the book, for instance are all statements made in quotation marks for real? Because this novel relies *heavily* on the actual events in Plath's and then the Hugheses' lives, any fiction will either be garishly out of place (the whole Kate Hands episode) or will be vulgar, such as the idea that Plath found out that Assia was pregnant and that *this* is what drove her to suicide...
Plath (who is the main subject of the book; Assia is much less thought-out and is dispensed with in a perfunctory way) is done a disservice here; in Burnt Diaries she asks Hughes what she was like, and he won't say a word. Maybe it was because of books like this.
I am giving it one star for the the cover, for its merciful brevity and because it reminded me to get some red lipstick.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bonzo on January 9, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Unconvincing novel about Sylvia and Ted.She was a suicidal neurotic,he was a male chauvinist.End of story. To re-phrase Oscar Wilde,'To lose one wife by suicide may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
SYLVIA AND TED, a strangely designed blue-gray book with a flower whose petals are grasped by fish hooks on the cover, a short novel by one Emma Tennant, sat with multiple copies on the table of "drastically reduced books for sale" at a local bookstore. Interest in the poetry of Ted Hughes and also that of the last works of Sylvia Plath made me curious enough to buy it without much thought. And it sat on my desk for months until one rainy evening it served to usurp my time for about three hours of reading. It is a strange book.

Emma Tennant (despite her apparent connections with Ted Hughes) is a curious writer. In SYLVIA AND TED she seems more intent on creating an atmosphere for the odd love story between two poets than in committing a biography to paper. In doing so she succeeds on some levels. The book is divided into years of importance in the lives of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and Assia Wevill - and in this manner she seems to be in awe of Michael Cunningham's THE HOURS, so intense is her exploration into the dark moods of each of these moments in time. And had she remained focused in this style then this book would have had a better chance at succeeding.

Tennant's problem is her self-indulgent verbiage, waxing literary in mythology and in symbolism that is more of a distraction than a significant modifier to the tale of two suicides over a single poet. To her credit she does manage a style of reportage that constantly keeps her in a position of close observer to the creative mind of Sylvia Plath. There is enough information about the disintegration of Plath's mind to make her suicide seem credible, no mean feat for a writer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on July 23, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A mesmerizing, fragmented novel of unique and bereft characters. These compulsive, creative souls feed off each other, competing furiously for their art and their personal space.
A lesson here for artists and authors: ground your work in self care - not obsession and compulsion.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
All these one-star reviews are dead on. Oddly, though, from a mathematical perspective, if you add them all up, they only amount to about a half a star. That's how awful even the mere conception of this book is. If you have any doubts, let me offer one thought that I don't see presented so far: Do you really think it's just happenstance that this book only exists now that the three principals are dead? Tennant would have had her tail sued off had she tried something like this in Hughes' lifetime.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is in spectacularly bad taste. The "fictionalizations" is spiteful, jealous, transparently vindictive, and very badly written. So much so it is almost laughable in places.
The author does not appear to understand that slandering someone is rhetorically very difficult-- usually the reader will see through the attempt, and end up sympathizing with the one being slandered.
She particularly loses credibility in her portrayal of Clarissa Roche-- presented in this book as an almost angelic presence in Plath's life, with no gray areas. By golly, look at that! The book is dedicated to Roche! Uhmmm.. just how stupid does she think her readers are?
My benefit of the doubt points for both Plath and Hughes have skyrocketted.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "tessdurby" on October 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this novel disappointing, even somewhat offensive. The liberties taken with the lives of Sylvia, Ted, and Assia seemed in poor taste, and much of the "poetic language" of the book was forced and overwritten. I'm as much of a Hughes/Plath fan as anyone, and I enjoy reading biographical and analytical books about their relationship and respective poems, but this quasi-fictional rendition of their lives (especially so soon after Hughes's death) left me uncomfortable; the early sections describing Assia's "coquettish" youth were the most troublesome in this regard. Interested in Sylvia and Ted (the poets)? My advice is to buy Birthday Letters, the new Plath unabridged journals, or Rough Magic instead.
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