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

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  563 ratings  ·  77 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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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
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
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
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
James Murphy
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
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
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 2 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Blue is the violet
Red is the rose
Ted Hughes is a sh*tbag
And his poetry blows
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
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 4 of 5 stars
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
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
Helen Kitson
With the lurid subtitle 'Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's rival and Ted Hughes' doomed love', you might find yourself wanting to give this biography a wide berth. After all, how much do we really need to know about the private lives of public figures? Nevertheless, there are few details of the relationship between Plath and Hughes that have not been dissected in numberless books and articles. What I think this book seeks to do is to provide a counter-balance to the popular view of Assia Wevill as a ...more
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
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
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
Jul 24, 2007 Loryn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: courtney
mother's intuition caused this book to land in my hands last month. how cathartic to read of the most unstable and dramatic affairs of the 20th century, just as my own mundane romantic problems were coming to a head--yet again. yesterday i devoured the book in hours and it ravaged me, spurring me to seek out even more pertinent reading material that i most likely will not share on goodreads. but this, dear friends, is a great read, even if you never relished ariel, crow, or reckless suicide fant ...more
Misti Rainwater-Lites
If you want a lurid, tacky read that's a bit more in-depth than the latest US Weekly, well here ya go. I think it's odd that people want to cast Ted Hughes as the monster in this tragedy. Assia Wevill made several less than thoughtful choices in matters of the heart. It's hard to sympathize with a woman who seduced not only a married man but the husband of a mentally ill mother of two young children. What is Assia Wevill's legacy? She left some love letters and glamorous photographs behind. Noth ...more
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Yehua Koren is a respected writer and journalist.
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