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Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  221 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Although Ted Hughes's genius was recognized early and he ended his days as England's Poet Laureate, his life was dogged by tragedy and controversy. His marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath marked his whole life, and he never entirely recovered from her suicide in 1963. Many people have held his adultery responsible for Plath's death; in this insightful book, Elaine Feinstein ...more
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published November 16th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published October 22nd 2001)
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Mar 10, 2012 Steve rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Bastards
Shelves: poetry, biography

To be honest, my expectations for Elaine Feinstein’s biography, Ted Hughes, The Life of a Poet, were, from the start, low. That’s not a knock against Feinstein, but against the familiar formula of cranking out a quick “biography” when someone famous dies. Hughes died October 29, 1998. Feinstein, an acquaintance of Hughes, attended the funeral, and was contacted by W.W. Norton in early November about commissioning a biography. Feinstein started work in February 1999. The book was published i
Apr 02, 2013 Nikki rated it it was ok
Having just read a Sylvia Plath biography I thought it only fair to redress the balance and read one on Ted Hughes. Given that this was written by someone who knew him I expected it to give a closer portrait of the man and the poet so I was somewhat disappointed by the book. It left me with the impression that the author didn't really know him at all or rather didn't understand him. I don't think he was the 'Heathcliff' character he is sometimes portrayed as and nor do I think he was responsible ...more
Ingrid Lola
Jan 02, 2009 Ingrid Lola rated it it was amazing
Elaine Feinstein, British poet and writer, herself an acquaintance of Hughes, succeeded in writing a fine and clear account of Hughes' prolific career as a poet. This book is very non-biased, well researched, and expertly written. Feinstein taps into Hughes' unique and artistic interpretation of the world, and examines how is poetry reflects that. Feinstein writes that Hughes himself "was not writing to stun or to startle, but to understand," and Feinstein achieves as well a clear understanding ...more
May 28, 2014 Theressa rated it did not like it
Feinstein writes a 'biography' of Ted Hughes. Hughes is: instead of the focus, rather a mere reference in her opinion piece illustrating a vendetta against Sylvia Plath.

Her introduction itself promises to portray the real and mysterious Hughes, separate from his involvement with Plath, and with limited content on his affair with Assia Wevill. We are instead confronted with the exact opposite of this promise, exposed to pages and pages of Plath and Wevill. Surely such pages are well written and i
Teresa Kinley
Jul 03, 2013 Teresa Kinley rated it it was ok
The bio is okay. It's not brilliantly written and it doesn't achieve what I hoped it would: more empathy for Hughes.
Jan 31, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
The great biography is yet to be written. This is a readable introduction of sorts.
May 08, 2008 Ilze rated it really liked it
Hughes was a born writer. You can see it in his work (and his unceasing need to write) as well as his studies. He couldn't stick out his original course of study because it was interfering with his writing. So anthropology and history it was, and you can follow the traces of these studies in his poetry (and other work). He absolutely loved Shakespeare ... and women! My theory is that he would always have hankered after Plath (as he did anyway) should they merely have divorced and she had lived t ...more
Liz Brown
Aug 02, 2013 Liz Brown rated it it was amazing
A compulsive read. Could be titled Ted and "brain" as this book cleverly has a two prong approach. The first Ted as a poet with an "inner life"- fantasies/innermost spirits- that often seems/needs to function on its own. Second his "physical life" -everyday needs/trials and tribulations. Both need satisfying causing conflicts, even suffering to those around him. Continuing with this two prong approach this book explores his marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath with her competing innermost spirits/f ...more
Apr 09, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it
Some brief thoughts: this book makes a great accompaniment to Birthday Letters, Hughes' collection of poetry about his relationship with Plath. It struck me as quite obviously biased towards Hughes himself - but I suppose I sought it out in the first place because Plath's feminist following make such a song and dance about what a selfish bully Hughes was and it was time to redress the balance. I think he comes across even here, though, as a bit of a loafer, a selfish son (concerns re: his father ...more
Aug 20, 2008 Mark rated it liked it
I came to this biography knowing only two facts about Ted Hughes: that he was a poet, and that he was Sylvia Plath's husband. I came away profoundly relieved to be in a stable marriage, inspired to read and write more poetry, and confident that Ted Hughes was not someone I would be likely to count as a friend. This is an excellent portrait of the man, touching and rich, and it made me curious to read other books by Elaine Feinstein, especially her biography of D.H. Lawrence. This would have been ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Dave rated it did not like it
Bluff Yorkshire poet's life given the rock star treatment by Hello style magazine reporter. The one star is generous - a shallow and salacious effort to minimize Hughes' involvement in Sylvia Plath's tragic death.
Collette Caffrey
Jan 25, 2014 Collette Caffrey rated it it was amazing
This is a splendid portrayal of Ted Hughes. It really gives you a sense of the man, his life, poetry, love and darkness. Written by Elaine Feinstein who better to comment on this giant.
Anna Graham
Sep 05, 2011 Anna Graham rated it really liked it
After a deep breath taken, I feel grateful for Hughes' poetry, sadness for the course of his life which revealed such depths. The book was full of interesting nuances, from Hughes' childhood through his later years. It felt thin at times, but his relationship and marriage to Sylvia Plath was well documented, as was his affair with Assia Wevill, which to many might be the biggest draw. I would have loved more background with his children, and his wife Carol. Still an excellent read for anyone cur ...more
Nov 30, 2014 Allison rated it liked it
A fair biography, I think. Feinstein is no Middlebrook, but I enjoyed the reading anyway.
Kim Bolton
Jun 17, 2012 Kim Bolton rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-shelf
i enjoyed this bio much more than I thought I would. I began reading it with a preconcieved idea of who Ted Hughes was: the lying, cheating, husband of poet Sylvia Plath. BUT you get a different persepctive of Hughes after reading Feinstein's book as the husband of neurotic woman who was constantly suspicious of him. He spent their married life encouraging Plath to write, but because of Plath's mental/emotional instability and Hughes's propensity to seek comfort from younger women their marriage ...more
Kate Sermon
Oct 19, 2013 Kate Sermon rated it liked it
I enjoyed this delve into Ted Hughes' life. I'm a Plath fan through and through and it was interesting to see the account of their marriage from Hughes' point of view. However, often this book read as an account of a fan wanting more than anything to raise her idol up in others' esteem. I would have liked a more balanced view, especially as a friend of mine who also 'knew' Hughes described him as arrogant and selfish. If this book is spin doctoring then it fails to convince me by its unbalanced ...more
Feb 09, 2010 Helen rated it liked it
I preferred the chapters that didn't explore the relationship between Plath and Hughes - Feinstein's opinion was too present in these sections, and I fail to see how she could have known so much about the intimate workings of Hughes' mind. At times, she goes beyond speculation - which is unwise. However I thoroughly enjoyed the chapter on his childhood, and found the book in its entirely, on the whole engaging and persuasive
Jaksie (jkcosmos) Cosmos
Ted Hughes. Interesting literary figure. However, author of his biography is less than an engaging writer. She interjects herself in a narrative about him that I find less than appropriate & actually nuanced focus on herself & her importance rather than on the biography. Feinstein's use of 'moreover' is quite distracting. I'm sure Hughes would be disenchanted with this attempt at his biography. I Do Not Recommend.
Helen Calcutt
Sep 20, 2011 Helen Calcutt rated it did not like it
'The Life of a poet' or 'The Death of Sylvia Plath: with chunks of Assia Wevill, briefly touching on the poetry of Ted Hughes'. What a load of bollocks. Teaching nothing but the squirmy ins and outs of a sexual affairs and personal intrigues, adding nothing of the man or the writing itself. Contraditction after contradiction after contradiction. Read only if desparate.
Nov 28, 2008 Nathaniel rated it it was ok
I'd have to agree with many of Feinstein's critics that characterize her biography as "light." While she provides some interesting tidbits, Feinstein only sketches the intersection of Hughes's life and writing. I hope future biographers use Feinstein's book to prompt deeper explorations.
Sep 06, 2011 Hugo rated it liked it
Not deep enough, provides some interesting notes but doesn't delve deep enough into his thought and intellectual development.
Interesting life story of Ted Hughes, not sure I really liked the man, or his life style but makes for good reading.
Simon Ward
Aug 23, 2014 Simon Ward rated it did not like it
Shelves: literary, biography
Did not finish and have no intention to finish it. Terrible.
Chris S
Dec 06, 2009 Chris S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio
Very fine and unsensational portrait of my favourite poet.
Merima Maja
Merima Maja rated it really liked it
Sep 20, 2016
BookDB marked it as to-read
Sep 15, 2016
MICHELLE MCKINNON SCOTT rated it really liked it
Sep 06, 2016
Matthew Dambro
Matthew Dambro marked it as to-read
Sep 02, 2016
Tracy Stanton
Tracy Stanton rated it really liked it
Aug 22, 2016
Michelle marked it as to-read
Aug 11, 2016
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Elaine Feinstein was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Leicester. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as an editor for Cambridge University Press (1960-62), as Lecturer in English at Bishop's Stortford Training College (1963-6), as Assistant Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Essex (1967-70), and as ...more
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