cover image Your Story, My Story

Your Story, My Story

Connie Palmen, trans. from the Dutch by Eileen Stevens and Anna Asbury. Amazon Crossing, $24.95 (206p) ISBN 978-1-542-02240-8

This enthralling novel from Palmen ([em]The Friendship[/em]) digs into the tumultuous marriage of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath from Hughes's point of view. After Hughes and Plath meet in 1956 Cambridge, England, the two are instantly besotted. For Hughes, who uses nature and myth as inspiration for his poems, Plath’s reliance on autobiography for her own writing bemuses and intrigues. While Hughes is aware of Plath’s past suicide attempt and mental health struggles, his admiration for her literary brilliance and his conception of their love as star-crossed and destined convinces him to marry her just four months later. Palmen depicts a passionate yet obsessive marriage over the following seven years, in which Plath’s bouts of depression and constant need for Hughes’s emotional attention and physical presence lead to moments of jealous rage—as when she discovers Hughes talking to a female student or being interviewed by a female radio producer. Hughes’s eventual affair is portrayed as almost inevitable, and Plath’s subsequent suicide as the tragic demise of a deeply troubled genius who developed a fixation on death. Palmen’s prose is beautiful and neither condemns nor exculpates Hughes. Palmen took on a tall order with this one, and does an admirable job of delivering. [em](Jan.) [/em]