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Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (Literary Lives)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  745 Ratings  ·  37 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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(showing 1-30 of 1,846)
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Clif Hostetler
Mar 10, 2016 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I found this biography of Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 – February 11, 1963) to be well written and researched. Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, short-story writer, and winner of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Collected Poems (awarded posthumously).

My motive for reading this biography was to prepare for the reading of The Bell Jar which I understand to be a semi-autobiographical novel that recounts her own life experiences of depression, attempted suicide and recovery into a new l
Jul 29, 2010 Leanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Like most readers/poetry fans, I knew the tragic story of how Sylvia Plath's life ended. But I knew little else until I read this book.

Linda Wagner-Martin writes a very thorough and touching biography from Sylvia Plath's chidhood (born 1932) until her suicide in 1963. So much is revealed from the untimely and emotional death of Sylvia's father, her days at Smith (and her first attempted suicide), her popularity, beliefs, and uncanny ability to work her sadness and suffering into the poetry that
Dec 05, 2014 Eileen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Moira Russell
Feb 05, 2009 Moira Russell rated it it was ok
Shelves: underwhelmed
Probably one of the dullest books ever written about an incendiary literary figure.
Kellie-Rose Wick
Jul 26, 2015 Kellie-Rose Wick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Actually helpful if you have just bingeread Ariel: The Restored Edition and want to understand better the context in which the poems were written. If The Bell Jar is one of your favourite books, as it is one of mine, the chapters dedicated to it are going to make you want to reread and maybe with a different perspective.
Amber Vrenna (The Inky Quills)
This is actually my second time reading this book. I bought it in high school and devoured it. I found it recently in a stack of books that I had put away. A wonderful biography of Plath.
Oct 19, 2015 Mandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2012 Ines rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 19, 2015 Carina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sylvia-plath
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
Aug 07, 2015 James Webb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 11, 2015 Chris Steeden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Adrian Ortiz
Jul 17, 2016 Adrian Ortiz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal !

I loved Linda Wagner-Martin's biography of the great Sylvia Plath. I particularly liked the way she tied in Sylvia Plath's poems with what was going on in her life at the time, thus allowing a more comprehensive understanding of her poetry. It adds depth to her poems as I read them again- clearly a positive outcome. I also enjoyed not being bogged down by useless trivia typical of many biographies. Overall, a phenomenal job by Linda Wagner-Martin.
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.
Marina Sofia
It was fine, but for a Plath fan like myself, it didn't add anything new. There were perhaps a few views from friends and lovers that I wasn't familiar with, but on the whole a pretty dry recount of the facts. The most interesting part was about the early childhood years, the parents and grandparents, which I was previously only vaguely aware of.
Mandy Romero-Carlsson
New to Plath

I am just now beginning my exploration of Plath. This biography acted as a Primer and I am grateful for the information provided in the pages. Now onward and upward to more detailed books about this tragic genius.
Nov 05, 2015 Chloe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Joe Mossa
Jul 27, 2009 Joe Mossa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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.
Mar 17, 2008 Esther rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 04, 2015 Marcy Adkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Carole Laughlin
Aug 16, 2015 Carole Laughlin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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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