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Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's Rival and Ted Hughes' Doomed Love

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  629 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
The failure of the marriage between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes has always been considered from one of two conflicting viewpoints: hers or his. Missing for more than four decades has been a third perspective on the events that brought their marriage to its ill-fated end, the story of another—the other—woman: Hughes' mistress Assia Wevill. Like Plath before her, Assia share ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,606)
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Paul Bryant

You might say that Assia Gutmann was born into difficult circumstances – the year was 1927 – the place was Berlin, the mother was German and the father was Jewish. Not good timing! He was a doctor, his Latvian family were wealthy, they were living a high middle class life but Adolf soon put a stop to that. In 1933 they were in the first wave of emigrants, they got out as fast as they could and went first of all to Pisa and then to Tel Aviv. O capricious fate - in Germany the father had been the
Jan 28, 2008 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, obviously I first picked up this book simply to add to my Plath library. But I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It did put a human face on Assia Wevill. I don't think Americans will ever understand how World War II really destroyed entire family's sense of the future and their understanding of human nature, and how that haunted them (and their choices and behavior) for the rest of their lives (see Piercy's Gone to Soldiers).

I also like that the author makes a subtle point about the
Feb 04, 2012 Belinda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Well, where to begin? I was searching through the library bio/autobiography section A-Z as I always do looking for something to add to my knowledge of already loved subjects or to gain a new obsession. I stumbled across this book and due to my love of Sylvia Plath, I immediately gravitated to it. I knew that Hughes cheated on Sylvia Plath, I was not surprised there was a mistress but like most people I knew nothing of Assia Wevill. Thanks to Ted Hughes. What a monster that man was.
Like so many
Jul 01, 2012 Ruth rated it it was ok
Why do some men consistently choose unstable, needy women? Do they need to feel superior? Or is it that they themselves drive women to this condition?

You aren't going to find the answers reading this book. It skirts pretty clear of any psychological theorizing. It does, however, paint Ted Hughes back into the corner from which he was emerging before he died. He does not come off well here.

It is one of those fascinating stories that suck us in despite our attempts to stifle the tabloid side of o
James Murphy
Jun 25, 2011 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story is familiar now. It began as fairy tale, the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. They were both young, beautiful, and gifted as poets. Their lives and their art were laid out before them like a road leading to a future colored as brightly as storybook. But it all turned dark. Plath had a history of mental instability and attempted suicide. She was apparently hard to live with, creating pressures within the marriage. In the fall of 1962 they became friends with the poet David Wevil ...more
Ingrid Lola
Jan 02, 2009 Ingrid Lola rated it did not like it
I must admit I've always held a bit of contempt for Assia Wevill, being an avid Plath fan - but I thought I should give her a fair chance and read this biography. It was terrible. Extremely subjective, certainly not an objective account with well researched and accurate information - as a biography should be.

Ted Hughes was not given an accurate representation in the least. The authors repeat over and over that Assia had a very dramatic personality and often exaggerated and embellished stories, b
Carl Rollyson
Aug 12, 2012 Carl Rollyson rated it really liked it
Assia Wevill is the dark lady of the Plath/Hughes agon. As Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev put it in "Lover of Unreason," "Assia was reduced to the role of a she-devil and an enchantress, the woman alleged to have severed the union of twentieth-century poetry's most celebrated couple."

When Sylvia Plath and Assia first met, they liked each other. Assia, a part-Jewish refugee from Hitler's Germany, bore, in Plath's words, her "passport on her face." She had lived the suffering that Sylvia had imagine
Aug 10, 2008 Ivy rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: the peanut-crunching crowd
This is a useful book for filling in gaps of knowledge regarding Assia Wevill and her relationship with Ted Hughes. However, throughout the book, the authors Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev seem to make a lot of assumptions about what AW and TH might be feeling, such as this statement:

"With two suicides on his back, Hughes felt as though he was cursed. There was something in him, which was fatal for every woman who got involved with him." (p. 215)

The language used lurches towards being too emotive
Jun 07, 2014 Aviva rated it it was amazing
Blue is the violet
Red is the rose
Ted Hughes is a sh*tbag
And his poetry blows
Sep 06, 2010 Natalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must say, by the end of reading this I think my nostrils were flared, and my brow was in twist as I glared at the words on the page. All this, of course, was directed at Ted Hughes.

The way in which the authors portrayed him led me to believe that here was a man with severe narcissistic Personality Disorder, and the way that he walked such a tightrope between adoration and repulsion toward Assia, a complete inability to commit and some kind of sick dependancy really made me skin prick.

In addit
Jul 23, 2013 Helene rated it really liked it
We've read so much about the Plath-Hughes marriage and Assia Wevill is portrayed here as the third and more obscure point of the eternal triangle that ended in so much death and heartbreak. Not only does Wevill commit suicide like Plath, but she takes her daughter with her, and if you count the tragic suicide of Nicholas Hughes many years later, the saga of the destruction planted in the constellation that the Hughes-Plath union created is depressing yet addictive reading.
It's all sad, and confu
Leah Polcar
Aug 09, 2015 Leah Polcar rated it it was ok
Shelves: bios, read-2015
I didn't really learn anything about Assia Wevill from this book. I am not sure if Koren needs to do more research or write differently, but this treatment was superficial and flat.
Katie Dreyer
Oct 13, 2011 Katie Dreyer rated it it was amazing
An incredible book. Assia Wevill - the forgotton woman in the Sylvia Plath tragedy. For many years, Ted Hughes sought to keep her existence and significance a secret, but after his death in 1998 and the release of many of his letters/personal items, the true nature of Ted and Assia's relationship became public. This is the first biography written about Assia. Constantly relocating, not able to identify with either her German or Jewish roots, Assia was always lost. After three failed marriages, A ...more
May 14, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this is a great biography! It was assigned reading for my English class, though I happened to finish it after the class ended (guilty). I've been reading it for quite awhile because I've been busy with other things. Usually when that happens I lose interest in the book I'm reading, but that didn't happen with "Lover of Unreason."

For starters, I was already interested in the subject of the book because we had been talking about the doomed marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath in my Eng
Jul 11, 2011 Ilze rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having made my way through most (if not all) the biographies written about Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes for a thesis I completed in 2007, I was surprised that Negev states the Hughes tried to keep the identity of his lover a secret for so long - even Janet Malcolm didn't mention her! She wrote the one book that makes a point of showing the reader that we will never know what really happened to these people.

The bits and pieces I did know about Assia Wevill before reading the book didn't come close
Heather Knight
Mar 09, 2008 Heather Knight rated it really liked it
A little personal background for why I wanted to read this book and found it so interesting: I visited England in the late 80s and took poetry and short fiction courses there. At the time, a biography of Plath had recently come out and there was much debate about the poet, whom the British have claimed as their own. Interestingly enough, the general feeling among these folks was decidedly anti-Hughes, even though he was their poet laureate at the time.

As a result of my time there, I read a lot o
Jan 02, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like many Sylvia Plath fans, I wanted to assume Assia Wevill (the woman Plath supposedly committed suicide over) was evil. Well, it's just not that simple. Honestly, this book just makes Ted Hughes (the poet whom Plath and Wevill both literally loved to death) look more like a sociopath than a cad. He even admitted that when Plath met him she "forgot death" and when Wevill met him she "forgot life." Pretty darn arrogant if you ask me. Anyway, Assia Wevill had plenty of flaws - she could be very ...more
Sep 09, 2010 Kris rated it it was amazing
It's about time that Assia Wevill is treated like more than a footnote in the ongoing biographic dialogue about the lives and marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Koren's book is respectful, never sensationalistic, and always fascinating and illuminating. It earns a place among serious books of literary biography and is must reading for those who want to fill in the blanks of their knowledge of mid-20th century poetry.
May 11, 2016 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The missing puzzle piece in the Hughes-Plath saga. Nowadays any article about either Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath will doubtless mention "the other woman" Assia Wevill, but there was a time when her name and identity, along with the extent of the relationship, was hushed up. (For the sake of Sylvia and Ted's children, or to protect slimy Ted from any negative publicity?)

At first I didn't much care for haughty Assia and her exotic ways, tearing through husbands at a rate of knots. I was very much
Sep 15, 2009 Valerie rated it liked it
This is a crazy true story that is too extreme to even imagine what these two woman had to endure for the compulsive love of Ted Hughes. It drove them to insanity, their fate was tragic and totally avoidable. It's a darn shame.
May 25, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-folk
Tragic, well-researched, compulsively readable account of the women in Ted Hughes' life. The main focus is on Assia Wevill AKA the OTHER WOMAN. Pictures included. Drama. Drama. Drama.
Moira Russell
A sensitive, sad portrait of a real woman who has all too often been forced into the shadows and vilified by both Plath and Hughes camps.
Bo Olsen
Oct 18, 2016 Bo Olsen rated it liked it
I read many of the reviews and can't seem to agree. This is the biography of Assia Wevill, a beautiful women with a bright mind with yet a strange way of going through life. After she first marries she finds a lover and both know she is carrying on with the other, this happens a second and third time, with none of the involved having much of a problem with it until she moves in on the Silvia Plath, Ted Hughes marriage. Once Silvia realizes her husband is involved with Assia and it's not ending, ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Kate rated it really liked it
I liked this book very much for the insights into the circumstances around Plath's suicide and Ted Hughes' amazingly bumptious behavior, e.g., Wevill was present at the post-funeral gathering at Plath's apartment. She also was brought into the Devon house to oversee the children shortly after Plath's death. And Weevil had an abortion that Plath most likely knew about. I know some see both Plath and Wevill as unstable creatures. But the treatment they received from Hughes would be enough to unhin ...more
Inken Purvis
Sep 22, 2015 Inken Purvis rated it liked it
Reams of books, articles and poetry have been written about Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes and their relationship, but very little is known about The Other Woman in this love triangle: Assia Wevill, who might also be considered a victim of the Plath/Hughes tragedy. Born in Germany, raised in Israel, Assia was beautiful, charismatic, intelligent, talented, volatile and as self-centred as a gyroscope.

Married three times by the time she met Hughes, Assia had always searched for the perfect life that inc
Mar 02, 2008 Becky rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Plath/Hughes fans
Shelves: plath
Finally, the story of Assia Gutmann Wevill is told, and what a story it is. The life of the "other woman" in the mythic marriage of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes seems eerily like the life of Plath herself. Even the excerpts from Wevill's journals sound -- in tone, style, and content -- like they could have been ripped from Plath's own journals.

I have studied Plath's life and work for a long time, so I am always interested in any new material that is brought to light. The authors have done a
Mike Lester
May 05, 2012 Mike Lester rated it really liked it
Holy shit. I'm really gonna do it. I've flirted with reviewing this book for so long, but never had the cashews to do it until now. The subject is just so damned sensitive. Chalk one up to Chianti. First, I suppose, we have to deal with the specter of Sylvia Plath's suicide. Her presence/ghost hovers over every page of this book, as I'm sure it did over Hughes and Wevill during their relationship. Now, there are two schools of thought when it comes to the suicide of SP, one being that Ted Hughes ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Megan rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a book that I nearly gave up on. I picked it up to read because the title appealed. And also, I really enjoy the poetry of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. On so many levels, I found this book very disappointing, though.

One good feature of the book is the liberal inclusion of photographs, which are well linked to the section of the book that they are in. There's nothing more irritating to me than looking at a collection of photos that you struggle to connect to the 'story'. Having said that,
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
Feb 01, 2015 Anna Maria Ballester Bohn rated it really liked it
One of the best biographies I have ever read. I found it especially refreshing that the authors don't hide (why should they?) their profound sympathy and compassion for Assia, and yet never sugarcoat her shortcomings and flaws, of which she had many. They don't sugarcoat Ted or Sylvia either, but they clearly do not adhere to the "Ted Hughes is a murderer" or "Sylvia Plath is a cold-hearted bitch" schools - also refreshing. More than her later life in England, I especially liked the account of A ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Aug 11, 2008 Lolly K Dandeneau rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Some men just break women and having the suicide of two women you loved to carry around must have been damaging. Love is messy and the other woman is often painted as some succubus, so I was delighted to see a book that finally brough Assia's story to light and revealed a woman very much like Plath. We can all demonzie Hughes but in reality poets can often have a defective heart and both plath and hughes were artists of the written word; artists have a tendency to be conflicted and lost. I think ...more
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Yehua Koren is a respected writer and journalist.
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“Every work of art stems from a wound in the soul of the artist. When a person is hurt, his immune system comes into operation, and a self-healing process takes place, mental and physical." He called art "a psychological component of the auto-immune system that gives expression to the healing process.” 4 likes
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