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Sylvia Plath: A Biography

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  939 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
The first biography of Sylvia Plath to draw on unpublished journals and letters, Sylvia Plath provides a detailed, objective, and illuminating portrait of this talented and tortured woman who is widely recognized as one of America's foremost poets of the 20th century. 20 pages of photos.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 15th 1988 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1987)
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Clif Hostetler
Mar 05, 2016 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
Rebecca McNutt
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sylvia Plath was an excellent writer, I still have a 1960's copy of The Bell Jar that she wrote. This biography explores her often enigmatic life in a time when people like her were not well understood.
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
Jul 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Probably one of the dullest books ever written about an incendiary literary figure.
Jim Dooley
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I'd read THE BELL JAR, I immediately wanted to know more about the writer. Other readers mentioned that it was such a depressing book, and I didn't find it so. In fact, I thought the story was uplifting. Also, there was such insight offered into the emotions of the character. It didn't feel as if I was just reading about them ... it felt as if I was experiencing them with the character. The book has come back to me from time to time ever since, and I know that I plan to read it again.

So, it
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
Kellie-Rose Wick
Jul 24, 2015 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.

Endeavour Press
This book is published by Endeavour Press.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Verónica Calvo
Nos acerca más a la poeta para entender mejor su obra.

Lo malo son las constantes faltas de ortografía.
Roman Clodia
If you know little about Sylvia Plath's troubled life then this is a good introductory biography: it's a very readable and accessible primer which takes a neutral, objective view of Plath herself and, especially, her marriage to Hughes. It's especially good on Plath's days as a college student at Smith where she dated obsessively and struggled with issues of sexuality, perfectionism, and feminine identity.

Later books are far more detailed and, often, take up ideological positions in relation to
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Understanding Sylvia Plath: A Must-Read for Poetry Lovers

A remarkably well-researched book into the chaotic life of one America's greatest poets. If you love Sylvia Plath's poetry--you will love this hook. The author's insight into the poet's early years and later, after her marriage to Ted Hughes, builds toward a dramatic conclusion. While the author skirts any detailed discussion of whether Plath suffered from abuse at the hands of Hughes, the reader is left to draw her or his own conclusions.
william ellison
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Method or madness?

Read in conjunction with the poems this is a satisfying account of a difficult and sad life. Perhaps the author is too ready to draw psychological conclusions and misses a little bit the undoubted humour and even joy of some of the poetry. But she gets to grips objectively with the conflicts behind the actual clinical depression, family, male archetypes and stereotypes and the fact that men leather down, as they do. Left with a sense of terrible waste - if only she could have b
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
A bit too long and detailed for my liking, but very informative. I highlighted numerous passages I want to further explore...her poems, women who inspired her, etc. I'm still not quite sure about how I feel about her...while definitely suffering from mental illness, it seemed her inability to just be content with herself or in her life brought on a lot of the problems she encountered.

I started The Bell Jar months ago and was unable to finish. I'm hoping knowing a bit of her history will help me
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very detailed and very insightful. It definitely make Plaths’ work more accessible.

It is in parts a bit too detailed. You kinda lose yourself in names of people and poems. But it is probably the best record of Sylvia Plaths’ life.
Oct 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Loved it! Concise but complete. Recommend to someone who wants something shorter to read. Also, does not speculate on Ted and Sylvia which I liked because a lot of it is conjecture.
Maj-Britt Hvidkvist
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting read

All the quotations and names chopped the reading flow up a bit. Still a very interesting insight into what her life was like.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As biographies go it was very well researched and I appreciate the analysis given on Plath's writings. However, as this is an older biography (written in the 80s), I feel that the portions of the book dedicated to her mental health aren't very well written. Over the years the stigma of mental health has decreased and more is understood today than even ten years ago. Because of that I find this part of the biography a little hard to digest. Martin tries to analyse Plath's mental health herself an ...more
Chris Steeden
Jul 10, 2015 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
Feb 13, 2015 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
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
James Webb
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 07, 2012 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
Joe Mossa
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it

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
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well-written, carefully researched look at Plath's life, from her early days as a working-class student in an upper-class community, to her final days as a homeowner in Britain.
The author did not have full permission to reprint any of Plath's work, instead preferring to stick more to biographical details than literary ones. Plath is an author whose personal life was closely intertwined with her work, so knowing some of her background helps shed some light on her writing and ultimately, on her t
Mar 14, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
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“finding their alter ego in each other — rebellious and isolated, strong and erotic and gifted.” 1 likes
“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
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