- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: HarpPeren; Reprint edition (February 28, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060974915
- ISBN-13: 978-0060974916
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #690,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963 Paperback – February 28, 1992
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"Finally now, young women writers can cease to identify with the apparent self-destroyer in Sylvia Plath and begin to understand the forces she had to reckon with." -- --Adrienne Rich
"One is left willing to bestow on Sylvia Plath the compassion and charity she so relentlessly and fatally denied herself." -- --Saturday Review
About the Author
Sylvia Plath (1932-63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright fellowship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Other posthumous publications include Ariel, her landmark publication, Crossing the Water, Winter Trees, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and The Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962.
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I love all the technology available to us today, but e-mail has certainly killed the magic of letters. This book has something like 1,000 letters from Sylvia, mostly to her mother. And yes, they are edited; and while at times you could certainly see Sylvia's mother making sure everybody knows she was a good mother, they are edited very well.
The letters read like narrative, taking you through a really interesting life story. Anyone interested in Plath should make this a must read. Between this and The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, I found Letters Home to be much faster paced and overall engrossing.
One day I may go back and read Letters Home and the journals simultaneously to see the differences in the letters vs. the journals during the same periods.
I highly recommend this book. Whether you are a fan of Plath's or just interested in the pre-techology life of a student, lover, wife, mother, you can't help but be captivated.
Sylvia Plath was brilliant, and she won many prizes for writing, and she worked hard, but it was astonishing how modest she was. She never felt she was better than anyone. She just wanted to learn. She felt inadequate most of the time, and being a perfectionist, she was insecure and self-defeating. Regardless, she had enormous amount of self-discipline, writing 1500 words a day. She strived just to be just a mediocre writer. She thought it better to take a class with a genius and ruin her grades, than to get good grades for the sake of good grades. She really embraced every opportunity.
I think I understand why she crashed. It wasn’t just the summer that warped her (and though it is never written, the concentration of so many pretty, intelligent, literary young women must have wounded her to the core). But it was also one disappointment after another, so she felt low, and in that low place, she just let herself go. She took her defeats very personal, without taking in the context. But that is just my guess. We all guess. For even Plath, years later, is she is quite baffled of how it all went wrong.
The writing is very charming. You like her as a person. She writes with intelligence, clear direction, maturity, and need. I will concede that as much as I admire Plath, I find some of her prose and yes, even her poems, to be stilted, too rigid in its conformity to structure, and too tight. And though these letters are not prose; the fact that these letters were not intended for publication and meant only to inform, makes her letters feel relaxed and natural. Her thoughts are clear and deep. Regardless of the brilliance of her poetry or even assumptions of her personality, you like her as a person. She has a very casual, coherent, yet thoughtful writing style. Her fears were normal. She was actually very complimentary of the people, who loathed her.
This book has been criticized as being too gushy; an overt attempt by her mother to counter the perception of Plath as neurotic and depressive, and also manipulative, because her mother was fed lies, and therefore, did not really know her daughter. Those critiques are valid, but they do not explain all. I will add that most children sideline their parents, lie to them to spare their parents’ hurt feelings. I will also add that Sylvia Plath did confess some bad feelings to her mother; they were so close, Sylvia Plath often wrote “we,” especially when she was in college, and in truth, she was doing very well, for years. It is clear that loved and feared her mother, and even at her worst, rather than running home, she was determined to make it in London, because she did not want her mother to see her at such a low point. Sylvia Plath did not want to give up, and not much has been written about her enormous fighting spirit. And in truth, the only times I felt Sylvia Plath was falsely enthusiastic was when she was writing about Ted Hughes. If there was any deception, it was about Ted Hughes, and it seemed Sylvia Plath was determined to fall in love with him.
Sylvia Plath wanted Richard Sassoon, and without prompting, loved and admired him, and when he rejected her, she convinced herself that she really loved Ted Hughes. I sincerely felt Sylvia Plath thought she had settled, and she was forcing Ted Hughes – not just on her mother, but also on herself. So you can just imagine the devastation she felt when Ted Hughes cheated on her. Because of her so-called compromise, devotion, and loyalty, even for the sake of her own work, the pain of his cheating stung all the worse. There were letters of desperation, but there were letters declaring it was the best time of her life. The parts where Plath was so allegedly happy after her separation from Ted were where I doubted her voice. It was difficult and sad to read how she was looking forward to going to Ireland, and for Ted to abandon her – had planned on abandoning her, was terrible to read.
Reading, you like Sylvia Plath as a person. She adored her friends and family. She was excited about writing and life. I also noticed there was little about vanity, except regarding her children, whom she thought exceptional. Despite all her accomplishments, she never boasted, and she was excited about every opportunity. Most astonishing, those who profess hatred – those she considered her friends, but later condemned her, she regarded with warmth.
I understand this book is not complete. These are letters not just to her mother, but to others. And they do not reveal Plath’s deepest thoughts.
But Plath did howl, and you understand her grief. That does not take away from what a sensitive good person she was. There is a reason why there is much interest. Not just because her work is good, but you sense what a good person she was.
Too bad we couldn't get the "full monty" with this volume.