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Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath Paperback – October 14, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (October 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400035007
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400035007
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #617,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This exceptional first novel, shot through with a fierce poetic luminosity that almost matches that of Moses's much-written-about subject, covers the last few months of the poet's life as she cares for her sick children in the middle of a brutal London winter, struggling to write her last poems and recover from the defection of husband Ted Hughes. Moses is frank, in a long afterword, about her sources-which include Plath's letters and journals-and about what she has made up or merely surmised. But the key question is whether the book succeeds as a compelling piece of fiction, and the answer is that it does, triumphantly. Moses moves deftly back and forth in time, from the couple's last months in their beloved but moldering Devonshire hideaway through Plath's first suspicions of Hughes's infidelities to her arrival in London. Moses catches the quality of English life, particularly its austere inconveniences and its moody weather, with remarkable fluency, and her habitation of Plath's body and mind feels complete. At the same time, she offers scenes that show how awkward and bloody minded the poet could sometimes be. It is not a sentimental book, but rather one that evokes Plath's fierce joy in words and images and her huge motherly courage in the face of crippling adversity, with lacerating episodes like the one in which she makes a desperate call from a phone box in the rain while her children peer in at her uncomprehendingly. In the end one wonders not how Plath came to kill herself but how she survived so long. This beautifully written novel may offend literary purists, but most readers will find it moving almost beyond words.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Suffering artists are the sainted martyrs of our times, and novelists love to speculate about iconic figures such as painter Frida Kahlo and poet Sylvia Plath. Already the subject of Emma Tennant's novel Sylvia and Ted (2001), Plath has now inspired first-time novelist Moses, who presents an exquisite interpretation of the final months in the brilliant but angst-riven poet's short life, focusing particularly on the collapse of her marriage to poet Ted Hughes. Moses is so fluent in Plath's swordlike language and mythic imagery, and so attuned to the dire complications of a love match between two intense poets, she writes with a cleansing purity, free of judgment and rich in intuition. In her finest passages, she reanimates the all-too-quickly defiled Eden the two poets attempted to create at Court Green, Plath's feverish and indelible poetic output, and her manic domestic industry, her muscular mothering, gardening, cooking, beekeeping, painting, and sewing. Plath held herself to impossibly high standards, and Moses traces the source of Plath's unsustainable drive and sensitivity and their tragic consequences with empathic artistry. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Kate Moses has an unerring feel for the conflicts and joys inherent of one woman's literary and domestic spheres of life.
L Goodman-Malamuth
Kate Moses seems to have climbed into the very soul of Sylvia Plath and brought her vividly to life on the written page with her stunning novel "Wintering."
Jana L. Perskie
In preparation for this novel, Moses read virtually every piece of Plath's writing, and most, if not all, of the resource material about Plath.
Mary Whipple

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Most readers who come to this book will already be familiar with the basic story of poet Sylvia Plath, her doomed marriage to author Ted Hughes, and her suicide at age thirty. In "Wintering," one of the Ariel poems, written in the four months before her death in February, 1963, Plath depicts the "real and bloody sacrifice" of this marriage, according to author Kate Moses, "not bodies piled in a mountain pass but her life...the truths fanning out a page at a time."
Kate Moses recreates the heart, soul, and psyche of Sylvia Plath in her extraordinary debut novel, Wintering. In preparation for this novel, Moses read virtually every piece of Plath's writing, and most, if not all, of the resource material about Plath. So completely has she distilled this material and incorporated it into the book that the reader feels as if s/he is actually entering the mind of Plath, a Plath who is speaking and reminiscing, conjuring up events, aching, dreaming, and hoping. Astonishingly, Moses achieves this without ever deviating from a third person narrative and without ever speaking as Plath herself.
Organizing the novel around the poems which make up the Ariel collection, all written in the last four months of Plath's life, Moses creates a fictional narrative using as chapter titles the names of poems from Ariel, each chapter including some of the imagery from these poems and the subject matter from Plath's life which parallels them. Moses does this naturally, without calling attention to this specific image in that poem, or this event at such and such a point in Plath's life, simply letting the narrative unfold in parallel with the essence and imagery of the poems, a process which feels, remarkably, as if it's unfolding of its own accord.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By beckyjean VINE VOICE on October 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As someone who has studied Plath's life and work for a long time, I was intrigued by the notion of someone having taken on Plath, Hughes, and their friends and families as characters for a novel.
The chapters of "Wintering" are each titled after one of Plath's "Ariel" poems, in the original sequence Plath had planned for the book -- the manuscript was to begin with the word "love" and end with the word "spring." "Wintering" author Kate Moses has clearly done a lot of excellent research -- this is apparent even before you get to her notes at the back of the book. Readers who are familiar with Plath's life and work will find the characters' thoughts and the book's settings dressed with details from Plath's poems, journals, and letters -- the six jars of honey, the "lurid skins" of balloons that appear in an "Ariel" poem.
It is on this level that "Wintering" succeeds as "A Novel of Sylvia Plath." Kate Moses has immersed herself in the wealth of material that's out there, by and about Plath, and has produced a crystalline snowglobe world out of what had been chunks and fragments.
It's also interesting that the novel appears not to take sides. Plath and Hughes are human, each with strengths and flaws. Even Dido Merwin and Assia Wevill are fleshed out, rather than left as flat villains of the piece.
But herein lies what dissatisfied me about "Wintering" -- there doesn't seem to be any villain or, if a villain, per se, isn't necessary, there's no fire, no thrill, none of the crash and bang and intensity one gets from reading Plath's actual writing, whether it's her poems or journals.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kate Moses seems to have climbed into the very soul of Sylvia Plath and brought her vividly to life on the written page with her stunning novel "Wintering." I read the novel in a 24 hour period, with a well worn copy of Plath's poetry by my side. Ms. Moses recreates the haunted last months of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. She researched her subject extensively and seemingly absorbed into her bloodstream all she read. Plath's skeleton is fleshed out from ink on page and recreated, with an artist's eye, into a vital woman determined to write her poems and raise her family alone. Moses' detail, language and imagery is exquisite and so reminiscent of her subject's that her prose reads like poetry.
The book begins at the conclusion of Plath's marriage to poet Ted Hughes. Throughout their tempestuous six years together they shared an extraordinary and mutually productive literary life. They were each other's best critics, and inspired and encouraged the other in their writing careers. The couple had two children, Frieda and Nicholas, still in their infancy when plans for a divorce were made. Their idyllic life together in the English countryside had descended into drama, violence and finally disaster. Hughes left his wife for another woman, a mutual friend, and Plath, in terrible anguish, is left to begin a new life for herself and her babies in a London flat, once occupied by William Butler Yeats.
"Wintering" is set in London in December 1962, with flashbacks to the couple's earlier years. Each of the forty-one chapters takes its title and substance from one of the "Ariel" poems, written during the last four months of the poets life. In spite of the quantity of poetry she pours onto the page, Plath is plagued with reoccurring bouts of clinical depression which she fights desperately.
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