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Her Husband: Hughes and Plath: A Marriage

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  1,605 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Ted Hughes married Sylvia Plath in 1956, at the outset of their brilliant careers. Plath's suicide six and a half years later, for which many held Hughes accountable, changed his life, his closest relationships, his standing in the literary world, and brought new significance to his poetry.

In this new biography of their marriage, Diane Middlebrook presents a portrait of Hu

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Published January 1st 2004 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published 2003)
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May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Reading this book, a biography of the marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes is like watching two masterful painters working side by side, Gaugain and Van Gogh, or Renoir and Monet--though probably more like the former, considering the volatility of both partners. Diane Middlebrook was a marvelous biographer, her Sexton biography was superb, and now, Her Husband--the story of the marriage of two of the most iconic poets of their times. The book focuses on the creative cauldron which was the mar ...more
M. D.  Hudson
Whenever I try to say something, anything, about the Sylvia Plath-Ted Hughes situation, I sound like a marriage counselor - a very, very bad marriage counselor. Diane Middlebrook's efforts here are certainly better than anything I could come up with in way of making sense of it all. But nothing, really, is figured out really. But this is not to say that I don't have opinions - oh, I have opinions. After reading this book, then delving again into Plath's diaries, and reading her poems (and some o ...more
Katie Marquette
Turns out Ted Hughes was a jerk and Sylvia was the real genius. I don't think anyone's surprised.

** 2015 Update **

This was a snarky review - I know why I wrote it at the time, but I no longer really believe this. I am currently immersed in an excellent Hughes biography. I have also read quite a bit of his poetry over the past few years and come to appreciate his own unique voice. Hughes, like Plath, was a poetic genius. While their marriage was imperfect - and it is all too easy to play the bla
Mar 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Plath/Hughes fans
When I first began reading Diane Middlebrook's Her Husband, I was disappointed.

"This is all the stuff I already know," I thought. "St. Botolph' marauder...pushy American girl...I've read this all before. Where's the new stuff?"

Plath fans like myself, who've read every biography and scrutinized every poem, need to hang in there for a bit. It takes a while to tap the riches in this book, but once you hit pay dirt, you'll be buried in it. You can expect nothing less from Diane Middlebrook'
This seems to be free if you are an Audible Plus member. You don't buy it; you can either listen to it or simply put in your library!

*The Bell Jar 3 stars by Sylvia Plath
*The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath TBR by Sylvia Plath
*Her Husband: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath - A Marriage TBR by Diane Wood Middlebrook
*Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath TBR by Heather Clark
I had some difficulty in choosing which shelf to put this on: biography, fiction or fantasy. I get a bit tired of ever being the nay-sayer, but really, what's the point of anything but complete honesty?

This book is a mess. It's a shambling, mishmash, hodgepodge collection of random thoughts, pulled together by a Sylvia Plath-Ted Hughes groupie who-wasn't-there-when-it-happened-but-writes-about-them-like-she-was-the-family-confidante. I hate that.

Middlebrook rehashes all the old Plath-Hughes nug
Anita Dalton
This book was not what I thought it was going to be. When the title involves the word "marriage" I expect a little more of actual information about the marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Instead of actual events from their marriage, we get lots of literary analyses of how their poetry echoed and reacted to each other.

That's all well and good but this book leaves out huge amounts of actual details from the writers' lives. Even the discussion of the poetry was shallow because there was a wea
Just finished re-reading this one; was perhaps very slightly less impressed on this go round, but I still believe Middlebrook to be an incredible biographer, and this particular text to be the shining star of the Plath/Hughes biographical warzone. If you're looking for the whole picture, you will be unfortunately let down; this is, as the title suggests, a portrait of the Plath/Hughes marriage, and so we get very little of their earlier history, and the last several chapters are concerned with H ...more
I've always been somehow more intrigued by Ted Hughes than Plath herself. I was truly saddened to see recently that thier son Nicholas comitted suicide. The Plath/Hughes thing is becoming something akin to the Kennedy curse of Poets....I don't like it. It's pretty horrifying to think of all the death and destruction Hughes purportedly caused with his infidelites....but I haven't got much to say for someone who sticks her head in an oven without head to the emotional baggage her children will hav ...more
Sep 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just can't stay away!
Sarah Beth
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath met at a party in 1956. Plath recognized Hughes' name as one of the two poets whose work she had memorized earlier that afternoon. She introduced herself by loudly reciting one of his poems, yelling over the loud dance music. They moved into an adjacent room where they could talk. When Hughes suddenly kissed Plath, she retaliated by biting him on the cheek until he bled. He responded by seizing her hair band and silver earrings and storming out. He was, as Middlebrook ...more
May 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy learning about famous relationships & those interested in writers' lives
Middlebrook offers a very different type of biography here. The story is told through the passionate yet tumultuous love relationship Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes had. I was really caught up in learning how they met, what their early marriage was like, and how they felt about writing in the process. For example, their writing rituals were really intricate and required a lot of negotiation in terms of their personal lives. Similarly, Middlebrook explains the background that motivated their various p ...more
Michael Clark
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating examination of a relationship, with immense empathy for all the damaged people involved. I thought Middlebrook's objectivity showed a great degree of compassion, and she seems to be up to some myth-busting as well. The downside, for me, seemed to be a somewhat superficial, even irrelevant, inclusion of lines of poetry; often, Middlebrook includes 2-3 line quotes from poems, and seems to think that they are self-explanatory in their commentary on the lives of Plath and Hugh ...more
Sarah O'Toole
Sep 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the best book I've ever read about Sylvia Plath. Because the biographical detail is secondary to the quest to discover the ways in which Plath and Hughes evolved and created each other as poets, we are brought right into the creative process and journey through the inner life of their work. I didn't feel like I was called to judge them as people, I felt privileged to gain a vantage point on how their work emerged out of who they were and it inspired me to be more accepting of my ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
It's remarkable to reenter this biography more than fifteen years after first reading it. Being a wife and mother this time around, as well as working writer, etc., has deepened my engagement with HER HUSBAND, which I now see as a portrait of the marriage of imagination(s) rather than a strict narration of the poets' legal / romantic union. This bit of cruelty still stands out, however -- the devastation the estranged Plath felt in what would be her last January when "...the review in the Observ ...more
Jan Lynch
This book is engaging, thought-provoking, and at times, raw. An excellent companion to Mad Girl's Love Song; it tells the rest of the story. Required reading for any fan of Sylvia Plath.
Amy Brand
Sep 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My interest before picking up this book was definitely skewed toward Sylvia, knowing almost nothing about Ted Hughes. As a teenager I went through a phase of interest in which I read some of her best known poetry and The Bell Jar. (And dressed as an "acetylene virgin" for Halloween. Lord help me.) I probably would have preferred to read a straight biography of her, but my local library had this title available as an audiobook, and I enjoy listening to audiobooks while work in the studio, doing d ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where to begin? I have lived with the works of these two colossal poets since undergraduate college. I've never taken sides in the great Plath-Hughes divide, precisely because I equally value their poems.

This book came out quite a few years ago, and even though I admired the author's biography of the poet Anne Sexton, I was hesitant to pick it up. What changed my mind? Negative reviews complaining that it was more about the poetry they created with and about each other than the gossipy drama tha
K.C. Bratt-Pfotenhauer
I will be honest; I went into this only knowing it was a biography about the Plath-Hughes marriage. I failed to notice "Her Husband" tacked onto the title before it arrived at my door. When I realized it would be more focused on Hughes rather than Plath, I was, initially, very angry. I don't like Ted Hughes very much at all. Ever since my first foray into Plath in high school, I have defended her and her craft and written off Ted Hughes as a cheating jerk, for lack of a better term. And after re ...more
Ingrid Lola
Jan 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Diane Middlebrook approaches the subject respectfully and without bias. I found it interesting because it really discusses the ins and outs of the marriage between Plath and Hughes, focusing specifically on the creative connection they felt with each other. The book is organized chronologically in stages of the relationship. It's not a typical biography.

Middlebrook has a flowing writing style that made this book fun to read. You can tell she understands the importance of words
Jun 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not really knowing that much about Plath and Hughes apart from the basic facts this book was a mine of information, I always thought sylvia committed suicide because of Hughes afair but she had suffered from a breakdown before even meeting Hughes. I was shocked to know what a womaniser Hughes was and how he cheated on all his partners and wives, it was also strange that the women who he left Plath for also suffered from depression and mental problems.There was obviously something about these wo ...more
Paula Dembeck
Jul 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ted and Sylvia Hughes married in 1956 at the onset of their brilliant careers. Plath committed suicide six and a half years later and many hold Hughes accountable for her death. It changed his life, his closest relationships and brought new significance to his poetry.

This is the story of their marriage. It presents Hughes as a complicated sexually magnetic man, an ambitious poet, a haunted and caring husband and a shrewd businessman.
Middlebrooke believes that Plath’s suicide devastated Hughes, m
Apr 08, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read and reviewed this book for the Times-Picayune. It was interesting to reflect more upon Ted Hughes and also seriously consider their work side by side, but I wasn't blown away like I was by Janet Malcolm's book.
Sharon Mensing
Jun 06, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Reads like a doctoral dissertation of poetry analysis. Ostensibly a biography of Sylvia Plath’s marriage and her husband, Ted Hughes, it really is literary analysis of his poetry. Deadly boring.
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much that I didn't know about Plath. Very interesting look into her life with Ted Hughes. This book gave me a better understanding and a renewed interest in rereading the "Bell Jar."
Aria Ligi
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography. Middlebrook tries and succeeds in presenting a balanced biography of Plath, and Hughes. She does not omit either the unflattering or the egregious behavior of either of them nor does she stoop to the folly of many biographers by suggesting that Plath was an out of control lunatic or Hughes had a hand in the very real act of her death. Instead, Middlebrook digs into the psyche of Hughes, his fascination with mythology, hunting, and astrology, and how that shaped his world vie ...more
Janée Baugher
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course the movie about these two writer skews many of the "facts" illustrated in this riveting biography. What's not in contention, though, is the oneness with which they approach their art. One cannot read Hughes' poetry without detecting echoes of Plath. He was never without a woman--always securing one before the former realized she was being replaced. The complication of two intellectual artists who try their hand at domestic, procreative bliss. Too many bodies weigh down the boat. But, d ...more
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great companion to a full biography of Sylvia Plath. It probably is not detailed enough and quite confusing if you’re not familiar with the whole picture. It skips in time and doesn’t tell you everything.

But this isn’t the aim of this book. It tries to show the becoming of Ted Hughes under the veil of their marriage. It shows that both probably wouldn’t have become writers without each other. And it shows the energy between those two - in good and bad times.

It’s a bit opinionated
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
These two souls always leave my heart bleeding just a bit; I've read almost every book about them and this one is among the best because Middlebrook approaches them first as sensitive, luminous humans -- and then -- as the giant poets and mythical figures they became.
Tracy Johnson
Not quite sure how I describe my thoughts about reading this work. It’s not a bad read, certainly points to information I wasn’t aware of. But it just didn’t live up to my expectations, in all fairness just my opinion!
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Middlebrook, who taught at Stanford for 35 years, was perhaps best known for Anne Sexton: A Biography. Its intense scrutiny of the poet's life made it "one of the turning points of late 20th-century biography," according to the newspaper. Middlebrook published several other well-received biographies and works of criticism, and was known for funding various arts organizations and literary salons f ...more

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