cover image The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 2: 1956–1963

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. 2: 1956–1963

Edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil. HarperCollins, $45 (1280p) ISBN 978-0-062-740-588

Completing the monumental task of collecting all of Plath’s known and available letters, this volume goes from her 24th birthday in October 1956 to a week before her suicide, at age 30, in February 1963. Opening on a young writer determined to publish and a deliriously happy newlywed gushing about her husband, fellow poet Ted Hughes, the book follows Plath as she finishes her Fulbright at Cambridge; teaches for a year at her alma mater, Smith College; and then returns to England to settle into a country house in Devon. The collection is mordantly fascinating as it reveals a brilliant, complex woman trying to carve out her own time for writing in between secretarial tasks for her husband (she typed his manuscripts), caring for their two children, and housework. The book becomes downright agonizing after Hughes leaves her and Plath is left fighting “the return of my madness,” even as she produces her best work, the poems comprising the collection Ariel, with a feeling of “writing in the blitz, bombs exploding all round.” Unobtrusively edited and scrupulously footnoted, this set of letters is a dazzling literary achievement, capturing the tender beauty of Plath’s richly lived, too short life. (Oct.)