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Sylvia and Ted Hardcover – May 12, 2001
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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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Sylvia committed suicide in 1963, after a series of jealous outrages due to her husband's infamous infidelities; firstly with their 15 year-old baby-sitter and then with a rival poet and magnificent Russian beauty, Assia Wevill.
Tennant reveals the emotions in Plath's life from 1935 when she was a two-year-old, continuously separated from her German parents and cared for by her grandparents in America. A gifted student, Sylvia wrote at an early age. At twenty-one she moved to England after she failed to be admitted to Harvard University.
In England, Sylvia strives for two goals, one to produce children and another to produce brilliant writing. She fails in both for a long time, and with great anguish, until the two goals converge at the same time. The stress of the two creative forces and the competing pressures for priority take their toll. At a time when she should be fulfilled, she fails at her marriage.
The writing tries to link Sylvia's relationships with her father and grandfather to her relationship with her husband, intermittently overlaying references to her poetry. It only partly achieves this while falling short of detailing the complexities of the tortured lives of ambitious artists. The novel is primarily for Plath devotees as the poetry references are rather tenuous. As a story it leaves many unanswered questions for the general reader, yet it's worth a read.
Martina Nicolls, Author of "The Sudan Curse" and "Kashmir on a Knife-Edge"
Tennant writes beautifully, and it's best to think of this as rather heated, dreamy character studies since the plot is often difficult to track. You won't learn much here if you've seen the movie "Sylvia." But still, some of the imagined childhood of Assia, and certainly the dinner with her sad child, were effective. Ted largely remains a cipher, but perhaps he was; images of him as a killer are haunting.
Not a lot of suspense and forward-motion, but lovely writing.
But I won't utter them, I'd leave that to the author of this atrocity, who seems to think sickly flowery prose, name dropping, and every 2 paragraphs (rough estimate I had stopped counting after awhile) alluding to Greco-Roman mythology, makes a good writer...actually, make that she thinks makes a great writer, because it is painfully obvious she thinks she's the cats meow literary-wise.
This book is total poop.
Near impossible to read as it is so laden with metaphors and overly descriptive tripe one must stop periodically to stop from wretching.
If you're considering buying this book, don't do it, unless you are a fan of Emma Tenant's other work (which I wouldn't understand anyhow even if her writing had improved 100%)
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. But why include Assia Wevill from the very first of the book, weaving her in and out of the story at will as though setting Assia up a trope for all of Ted Hughes' well-documented assignations?
Quibbling? Perhaps. This is not the book to read for a biography of these well known subjects: this is a theme and variations on the lives of artists heavily weighted with poetically inclined diversions. It has its moments. Grady Harp, March 2005