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Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted
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Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  513 ratings  ·  86 reviews
A new biography of Sylvia Plath, a literary icon who continues to haunt, fascinate, and enthrall even now, fifty years after her death

On February 25 , 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter—now one of the most famous in all of literary history—was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2013)
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Petra X smokin' hot
I've just read this and her largely autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, both of which changed my opinion of Plath. I don't like her any better but I have a better understanding of who she was. She was without doubt a very talented writer. But as well as her desire to write, she was equally motivated in her life by her great bitterness at not having been born into the moneyed classes with the consequent entre to a glittering social life of foreign travel, shopping and rich young men. Her talent ...more
Moira Russell
Damn this book is disappointing. It has a wonderful premise -- after all, Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes in a famous collision in early 1956, when she was twenty-three, and the couple separated in the summer of 1962, after which Plath wrote most of the poems which made her famous, in a single autumn. As the jacket flap copy of this book says, "Before she met Ted....her father had died when she was only eight; she had....been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide, and had written more th ...more
First off, I must admit that I have been both a student and teacher of Plath's poetry since the 1970s, and I have read most biographies and a number of critical studies regarding her work. In fact, when I emigrated to Britain from the US, I actually moved a number of said books with me at a time when I was whittling down my overall collection to save on shipping. In other words, I'm a fan and a scholar of sorts.

When I first saw this book last weekend, I was intrigued. New books on Plath are to b
Quite possibly the best Plath biography ever, without taking sides. Sylvia was, after all, only human, and some people loved her, some people hated her, and some really didn't understand her - we get testimonies from all camps in this book. Even the ever evasive Richard Sassoon makes an appearance!
Shoots Anne Stevenson's book out of the water. If only we had a sequel with life after Ted... hear that, Mr Wilson?
Anna Maria Ballester Bohn
I agree with other reviewers, this was quite disappointing. Not only is it sloppily written, the insights are also sloppy. Wilson peppers his text with insinuations and questions that are barely backed by evidence and abound in infuriating formulations like "Was it possible that...?" If you are going to speculate, at least have the honesty and courage of going all the way, put yourself out there and say: "This is what I think happened."

The only reason I gave this two stars is because I did get i
A biography about Plath's youth? The scholars must be clutching at straws. It isn't so.

Few of the Plath biographies are so relevant with such sharply refined context. This is one of the very best books written about Plath, sheds so much light on her adult life through her youth, and in ways I hadn't imagined.
Aniko Carmean
I have a bookshelf dedicated to my Plath studies. In addition to Plath's published works, the shelf holds works of her major influencers (Hughes, Roethke, Woolf), the works of contemporary poets Plath knew (Lowell, Sexton) and several biographies. MAD GIRL'S LOVE SONG: SYLVIA PLATH AND LIFE BEFORE TED by Andrew Wilson is the latest addition to my collection. My interest in Plath borders on mystical fascination. I am attracted to the mystery of a human touching, conducting, and embodying the inca ...more
I've been looking at Plath as part of my extra English studies and as such, this book seemed like a good place to begin. There are a plethora of biographies which focus on Plath after meeting Ted Hughes, it is truly refreshing to read Wilson's account of Plath growing up.

Perhaps it is simply my adoration of Plath's work that compels me to rate this as highly as I have, however, it is so well sourced and populated with primary sources of information that I think it is deserving. It is obviously a
In the 50 years since Sylvia Plath's suicide, her biographic legacy has been controlled by people who had much to lose by an honest interpretation of her life - namely her mother and her ex-husband. Now, however, with those parties dead, a more honest assessment of Plath, both as an artist and as a woman can be made.The first step in the process, perhaps, was the publication in 2000 of Plath's unabridged journals. But Andrew Wilson's look at her life up until her marriage to Ted Hughes is much, ...more
J.S. Watts
I've read many books on Plath, as part of my degree and after, and while this book is a fresh take on parts of her life not fully covered elsewhere, it is a bit of a disappointment. It is sloppilly written and edited (the quantity of typos in my Simon and Shuster edition were surprising for a quality hardback) and is fundamentally a superficial journalistic, rather than an in-depth academic, piece.

Wilson has apparently done his research in the Smith archives and elsewhere, but he has a tendency
I enjoyed this biography right up to the very end. I felt like it blamed Hughes for Sylvia's death. Look the biographer may know more about the situation from the letters and the archives but at the end of the day they know the same amount about Hughes and Plath's relationship as I do: nothing. Those two know what went down in their relationship. Of course you have recollection from third party sources but serious it was their relationship. And seeing as it's a biographer's job to be impartial ( ...more
I found myself fascinated with this book - after all, so many biographies skim over a lot of Plath's life before she met Ted Hughes. But I did have some problems, mostly with the amount of speculation involved. A biographer's job involves making a story of someone's life, and a little speculation is probably okay. But Wilson speculates a lot about things that "might" have happened or "might" have been one way, and quotes others speculating just as much.

Worth the read if you're a fan of Plath or
I wanted to read this book because it was free of the massive problems associated with any biography written about Sylvia and Ted. The Hughes's have managed to inveigle their way into every first draft about the marriage of Plath/Hughes, and most biographers have sided with one camp or other.This would make a book about Plath and only Plath clean of those influences, or so I thought. But while it doesn't have the albatross of Olwyn hanging about its neck, Wilson has taken a position and it does ...more
Melissa Kane
I really liked this biography of Plath's early years. It was meticulously researched and, apart from a few typos, well written, pacy and enlightening. It's been a while since I read anything on or by Sylvia Plath, so some things I was reminded of, but most of it was new to me and I had no idea she'd had such a roll call of boyfriends before Ted! That was some tally for the mid-1950s.

As for Plath herself, I was impressed by her determination and work ethic. Even by today's competitive standards s
Joan Colby
This well-researched study on the early life of Sylvia Plath clearly indicates her disturbed personality which manifested repeatedly in her romantic encounters and her scholastic pursuits. A perfectionist, Sylvia was driven by her own expectations which were urged on by her devoted mother and frequently her teachers. She could not bear failure, and her behavior veered between mania and depression, though it appears she was never diagnosed as bi-polar. Her first suicide attempt was followed by an ...more
I really rather enjoyed this book! I didn't really know much about the poet and author Sylvia Plath before reading this biography but I feel I know her very well now I have completed it! The book tells the story of Sylvia Plath's life before her marriage to Ted Hughes, which apparently has not been nearly as well documented as their life together.

This biography redresses the balance with well researched and often first hand accounts of relationships from those that knew Plath personally. The ma
Maybe I just don't care for biographies the way I used to, but this felt like a regurgitating of facts I already knew combined with a parsing of unimportant details of Sylvia Plath's diaries and childhood experiences, drawing conclusions that seemed, ultimately, like guesses.
This book was very well researched... He tried to be objective without being dry.

I was hooked on this book, and I couldn't help but wonder if she would have had a happier ending.

I wanted this to end differently, despite knowing the contrary...
I found this book interesting because it concentrated on Plath's life before she met Ted Hughes. So much has been written on their relationship! The author's research is evident, making this volume one which both academics and non-academics would enjoy.
Paul Servini
I suppose any book on Sylvia Platt was bound to be controversial. I found it both inormative and interesting, if a little long-winded at times.
For the third nine weeks of school, I read Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson. Honestly, overall I was very disappointed in the book. The brief introduction and some of the reviews sounded very interesting, which is why I chose to read this book, but once I started reading, I was extremely bored. There were only a few times when I really enjoyed Andrew Wilson's writing, but other than that I was confused and almost surprised that a book about a wonderful and ...more
Although I liked the story, it read as if the author were reporting a series of events, it didn't flow.
Margaret Barnes
This biography of Sylvia Plath's early life is an authoritative account of the poet's childhood and teenage years. The author has had access to previously unseen papers and has interviewed as many of her friends and acquaintances as possible, as well as the more familiar archives. The story is also that of a troubled mind, whose genius seems to have flowered out of her mental instability. It is hard to understand why such a talented and beautiful young woman could suffer from a mental breakdown ...more
Go Places
Two main impressions I got from this book:

1. Wow, this woman was cray-cray. She had deep-seated psychological problems (mostly daddy issues) way before Ted Hughes came into the picture.

2. How may boyfriends did she have again? I lost count around the first ten.

The pros: Wilson had written a well-researched, detailed account of Plath’s childhood, adolescence, and twenty-something period. There’s a tendency to view Plath as a mythical woman, so it was refreshing to see a humanized depiction of he
Like any good angsty teenager with literary inclinations, I was a fan of Sylvia Plath. I actually preferred Anne Sexton’s poetry, perhaps because I found her subject matter more tangible, but I spent my fair share of time with Sylvia. When I learned about this new biography by Andrew Wilson, my inner sixteen-year-old demanded that I read it. I was drawn to the idea of a biography that focuses on her life before meeting her husband Ted Hughes.

I was quite immersed in Mad Girl’s Love Song during th
Leah (Books Speak Volumes)
Sylvia Plath is a literary icon known for her confessional poetry, her autobiographical novel The Bell Jar, her tumultuous relationship with her husband and fellow poet Ted Hughes, and her tragic suicide at the age of 30. In this new biography of the poet, released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of her death, Andrew Wilson tells the story of Sylvia Plath’s early life.

Before she met Ted at the age of 23, Plath led a complex, creative life full of the highest highs and lowest lows. Her fath
Plath's early life was fascinating and I think it would make for a for a great read regardless of how it's presented. Unfortunately, I think the author was ill-equipped to handle the later early-years' psychology and Plath's inner turmoil. He reverted to using "Lady Lazarus" and "Daddy" whenever he wanted to present "evidence" of her feelings about her father's death, using little of the primary source evidence he employed to describe other aspects of her life. He mentioned on several occasions ...more
Scarlett Sims
Because of the publication of her journals and letters, much is already known about Sylvia Plath's brief life. Here, however, Andrew Wilson gives a different take on it. Mad Girl's Love Song, the title taken from one of Plath's unpublished poems, focuses solely on Sylvia's life before meeting Ted Hughes, and incorporates information that Plath's mother, Aurelia, edited out of Sylvia's published correspondence. Wilson also conducted interviews with many people who knew Sylvia Plath, so the idea i ...more
It was refreshing to read a biography that does not focus on the Ted Hughes years, but recognises that before she even travelled to England Plath was already a published writer. She worked hard at her craft whilst obtaining a college education, navigating the dating world and worrying about how to fund everything. Wilson doesn't put Plath on a pedestal but demonstrates that she was a complicated woman with faults, insecurities, passions and dreams like so many others stepping out into the world. ...more
I have always loved Plath's work - as a volatile sixteen-year-old girl who enjoyed The Bell Jar, but also as a college student studying Plath and Hughes as a case of melding, conflicting artistic personalities. Wilson's book - recommended by Brain Pickings - is compelling as it confines itself to Sylvia's life before meeting Ted Hughes. Wilson's research builds a portrait of Sylvia as tumultuous and performative, mapping her evolution through her many (many, many) romances. Unfortunately, Wilson ...more
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About himself:

"I'm a journalist and author. My work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the Sunday Times, the Independent on Sunday, the Daily Mail, the New Statesman and the Evening Standard magazine."

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“From the beginning of her development, Sylvia—or Sivvy, as her family called her—came to associate words as a substitute for love” 4 likes
“If too much has been made of the symptoms of Plath’s mental illness, so too little attention has been paid to its possible causes. Sylvia Plath was an angry young woman born in a country and at a time that only exacerbated and intensified her fury.” 3 likes
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