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Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (Literary Lives)

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  627 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life examines the way Plath made herself into a writer. Close analysis of Plath's reading and apprenticeship writing both in fiction and poetry sheds considerable light on Plath's work in the late 1960s. In this updated edition there will be discussion of the aftermath of Plath's death, including the publication of her Collected Poems--edited by Te ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 288 pages
Published October 24th 2003 by Palgrave Macmillan (first published 1987)
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Pretty interesting. Very clearly written and obviously well researched. Wagner-Martin especially makes Plath's time as a single mother, and what a struggle that was for her, very real and palpable. At times, though, she engages in pop-pyschology analysis of Plath, and that's a bit annoying. Also, sometimes she makes claims and there is no support. And I wanted to have much more about the dissolution of the Plath-Hughes marriage. However, Wagner-Martin notes in the preface that the Hughes' limite ...more
Moira Russell
Probably one of the dullest books ever written about an incendiary literary figure.
Reading about Sylvia delivers a sensation like drinking coarse, bitter hot chocolate. I was left gesturing out for 'A Tulip' that I could pluck from the fields we passed, myself peering out of the window of the train car of her intense, and sometimes disturbing train of thought. It kept brewing that I should read at least one account of Sylvia's life story, and my fascination with her work has only increased in volumes. She will shine on for many more generations to be enchanted and enamored wit ...more
Kellie Wortham-Wick
Sylvia Plath

This rating reflects my respect to the devout writer, and her life's work as a struggling artist in pursuit of happiness, so sadly and tragically unrequited in life.

A serious person who is indeed extremely focused on her gifts, yet does not know the merit of her own worth, she is perpetually self conscious or insecure of her works not being up to par.

I recommend this book to all who are new to the poetry of Ms. Sylvia Platt.

Ann Marie
The author certainly researched her subject, but that may be part of the problem. Many facts are presented, but as Leanna mentioned in her review, the pop psychology gets annoying. While Sylvia Plath's writing about her own depression is vivid, in this book I feel her spirit is somewhat lost in a mountain of details. She doesn't quite come alive for me here, and that is disappointing.
Amazing, moving. It seems strange to cry at a biography, and it was only a bit, but I have always loved Sylvia Plath and it felt like losing a friend.
LOVED this book! I have always admired plath though she was not an easy person to "like". The author strikes a great balance between the facts of plath's life and her writing. The text serves as a great introduction to Plath. The book causes me to want to re-read The Bell Jar and dust off the poetry collections I have. WOULD GIVE 10 stars if I could. It also makes me want to read Ted Hughes and Anne Sexton and all those who influenced Plath. Did not discover until I read this book that she was i ...more
Linda Wagner-Martin’s biography of Sylva Plath was published in 1987, many years before the new wave of Plath biographies. This is not the book for Plath aficionados who already know a great deal about Plath’s life and work. In fact, this biography is rather superficial; it doesn’t delve into the intricacies of Plath’s life and death. There are many other good biographies of Plath that focus on very specific moments in her life (Elizabeth Winder’s “Pain, Parties, Work” is a great chronicle of Pl ...more
James Webb
Because of my interest in existential issues in bright people, I read this book to learn more about Sylvia Plath and I was not disappointed. The author used many primary sources, and she gave me a much more well-rounded picture of Sylvia Plath as a whole person who struggled with her intensity and idealism and issues that so many bright women must cope with. I thought the book might be a depressing one, but it was not. It simply described the struggles of many bright, creative, intense, and idea ...more
Cynthia T Cannon
Biography done without cheerful compromise

A great female author who was sadly subject to depression. A complex woman trying to make her way through the conflicting demands of home and family. Her final tragedy is how hard she pushed herself while still doing justice to raising her children at the time when her husband was away from the family coming and going as he pleased and cultivating the admiration of many admirers while Sylvia tended to his children. Yet in a travesty this man controlled a
Chris Steeden
A new Ted Hughes biography has been released and I have seen the 2003 film with Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath but cannot remember much about it. This biography is quite slim but I feel that you get a good sense of Plath, her writings and life. The author began researching for this biography in 1982. This was when Plath won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twenty years after her death on 11-FEB-1963 with 'Collected Poems'. Ted Hughes refused to be interviewed directly for this book. The literary r ...more
This was a good informative biography about Sylvia Plath who had a very colourful life. I enjoyed finding out more about her and particularly liked the analysis of her poetry and journal entries. However I thought the beginning was a bit slow and I thought some details were skimmed over such as the aftermath of her suicide and how it affected her children and Ted Hughes. I also thought Ted Hughes came off quite lightly but maybe that's what happened! I'd be intrigued to read another biography wh ...more
Reena Ribalow Ben-Ephraim
I don't share in the enthusiasm for this book. I couldn't recommend it to anyone who knows Plath's work and the basics of her life; it offers nothing beyond these parameters. This is a basic and shallow look at Plath, using feminist cliches at their most basic. It is not particularly well-researched or written, and is a sort of Cliff Notes of Plath's life. Look elsewhere if you really want depth.
This book was well written biography that kept me engaged and interested throughout its entirety. The information is presented in a graceful way that is also easy to understand and follow. I would highly recommend this biography to any Plath fan who is interested in the context behind her journal entires or who seeks more information in general about Plath. In the final chapter, Plath's final days are exposed, as well as her writing: "Once one has seen God, what is the remedy?" (239) Plath expla ...more
An academic look at Plath

Well researched and thought out portrait of the tortured poet. Presented with a feminist view of the time and circumstances that prevented Plath from realizing her talent.
Endeavour Press
This book is published by Endeavour Press.
Jessica Goodall
Informative but a little dry.
Also, das ist jetzt mittlerweile mein dritter Versuch eine Biographie über Sylvia zu mögen, aber auch diese hier hat es nicht geschafft.
Es kommt mir so vor als würden alle Biographen versuchen, Sylvia immer negativ darzustellen, aber Ted (ihr Ehemann) immer als den "Guten".
Nein, so gefällt mir das nicht. Da lese ich lieber die Briefe an ihre Mutter und ihre Tagebücher. Da kommen die Informationen von der Quelle und werden nicht durch die Verblendung und voreingenommene Meinung der Biographen ver
Joe Mossa

this is a great book about a great,sad lady. whatever happened to her kids ? this book made me want to buy a book of her poems. i tried to buy one at but after purchasing it,my wife said our account is too low for such a purchase. when i wrote to them to cancel the order,they had already written an e mail to me saying that the order had been canceled due to the book s unavailability. is that a bad omen ?im going to see if i can print some of her poems from a free website. happy readi
matt boggs
The works of Sylvia Plath are a 'Must Read' and her biography helps the reader understand her all the more.
ends abruptly with her suicide, not a single subsequent paragraph about her posthumous literary life and growth in reputation which seems a bit odd. Also obviously was subject to Ted Hughes approval as mention of his affair, desertion etc. is v. minimal. Even has his mistress mentioned as a good friend of Sylvia's , loaning her furniture after Ted left her (for her...hmmm). There are much better biographies. Good although brief analysis of some poems.
Marcy Adkins
I've always had a fascination with Sylvia Plath; read a lot of her work, wrote a college paper, etc. This was a nice, simple summary of events in her life that led up to her suicide.
Carole Laughlin
Very powerful novel.......

So sad to see the emotional struggles of one so talented. A beautifully written story. Will now plan to reread "The Bell Jar" which I read years will mean much more now.
Amy Day
Such a driven woman. Compulsive and articulate, just too sad that she was unable to thrive despite her insecurities. Her struggles were what gave her poetry life and passion
As the first biography I have read on Sylvia Plath, this was completely amazing. It reads like a novel but with so much information based on her journals, letters, poems, stories, and other research the author is done, it is packed with information.
Ellie Lloyd
A thoroughly interesting review on Plath's life, despite being largely biographically based. Very useful and pleasant to read.
This was a well written biography that made you feel like you really did know and understand the real Sylvia.
One of the best biographies on her I ever found. Sadly it was destroyed in Katrina and I have yet to replace it.
Claudia Rynkowski
Claudia Rynkowski marked it as to-read
Nov 25, 2015
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“Plath was a feminist, in a broad sense of the term: she never undervalued herself or her work. She insisted that she be recognized as the talented writer she was even while her children were infants and she was spending more time as a mother and a wife than as a writer.” 0 likes
“In the course of her life, her deepest friendships were with people with whom she could show a frankness that was often discouraged in “polite” society.” 0 likes
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