Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the Story of Birthday Letters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the Story of Birthday Letters

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  321 ratings  ·  11 reviews
When Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters was published in 1998, it was greeted with astonishment and acclaim, immediately landing on the bestseller list. Few suspected that Hughes had been at work for a quarter of a century on this cycle of poems addressed to his first wife, Sylvia Plath. In Ariel's Gift, Erica Wagner explores the destructive relationship between these two poets...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 17th 2002 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2000)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ariel's Gift, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ariel's Gift

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 879)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
it's true that poetry is not biography. and yet, confessional poets abound and their life stories do provide context for their work. the work, however, stands as well alone (at least, it does if it's well-written). plath is among the most controversial and confessional poets of all-time. hughes, her widower, broke his lifelong silence about his first wife, her suicide, and the aftermath when he published his first confessional work in birthday letters the year before his death. in this book, the...more
Erica Wagner's analysis of the Birthday Letters is beautifully done. Close reading of Hughes' work in its own right and its intertwined existence with Plath's. On the one hand I feel like going from criticism to poetry rather than the other way round is the wrong direction, but having read this I am much more interested in reading both poets' work than before. Also a good introduction in terms of referencing the plethora of criticism/literature that exists on Plath/Hughes.
Maybe Wagner leaned too much on the emotional content of the poetry, but in all, she manages to provide a fairly clear-headed text comparing Birthday Letters to Plath's work and integrating it with the Hughes' lives.
Katie Dreyer
An excellent analysis of the work of both Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. I now realize that I failed to recognize the sheer brilliance of the poetry contained in Hughes's "Birthday Letters". While I certainly enjoyed the poems and especially appreciated the insights it gave me into the complex marriage of Plath and Hughes, I did not fully comprehend the gravity or poetic genius of the work. Erica Wagner has given me a greater understanding and appreciation for both Plath and Hughes. Wagner is also...more
Maria Ch

A fairly good account of criticism regarding Ted Hughes’ collection Birthday Letters, 88 poems about Sylvia Plath and his marriage to her. It gives a lot of historical background and approaches poems in a linear chronological order providing information about what was going on in the life of Hughes and Plath at each instance. It also provides parallel readings of poems by both Plath and Hughes with common theme or content that I found very interesting. What I did not particularly like was the fa...more
Susanne Clower
This did look interesting, but after starting it, I decided I didn't want to spend this much time with someone who committed suicide. Maybe I can read this another time, but for now it is too depressing.
The best kind of literary criticism: gives the reader the background (and what context could be more notorious and suffocating than the Hughes/Plath mythology?) without relying wholly on it and still seeing the poetry as exactly that - that is, poetry. Well-researched, measured, thoughtful.
I have become fascinated with this woman. It amazes me that if she were alive today she would be my grandma's age yet I like she's me. Idk I just feel connected to her. A bit too much I think.
poets in love. poets in hate. poets writing poems for one another. poems analyzed to reconfigure heartbreak. yes.
Reread this while putting the baby to sleep. I like Plath.
Wish I could give 3.5 stars!
Ahlon Gavins
Ahlon Gavins marked it as to-read
Aug 24, 2014
Tanya Arjoon
Tanya Arjoon marked it as to-read
Aug 21, 2014
Sarah marked it as to-read
Aug 20, 2014
Aleksandra marked it as to-read
Aug 15, 2014
Tom marked it as to-read
Aug 14, 2014
Chloë Long
Chloë Long marked it as to-read
Aug 12, 2014
Maureen Collier
Maureen Collier marked it as to-read
Aug 09, 2014
Tiffany is currently reading it
Aug 05, 2014
Kathleen marked it as to-read
Aug 04, 2014
Sari marked it as to-read
Aug 04, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 29 30 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Her Husband: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath - A Marriage
  • Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness
  • Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's Rival and Ted Hughes' Doomed Love
  • Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath
  • Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath
  • Sylvia Plath: A Biography
  • The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes
  • The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath
  • Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted
  • Letters Home
  • Birthday Letters
  • American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath
  • Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters
  • The Savage God: A Study of Suicide
  • Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton
  • Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
  • Wintering : A Novel of Sylvia Plath
  • Blake
Erica Wagner is an American author and critic living in London. She is former literary editor of The Times.

She is the author of several books, including a collection of short stories, Gravity, and Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters, and the novel Seizure.

Her husband, Francis Gilbert, is author of I’m a Teacher, Get Me Out of Here!. She also reviews regularly...more
More about Erica Wagner...
Seizure Gravity Sea Stories Time Out Paris Short Stories 1 The Voyage Out

Share This Book