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LETTERS HOME

ISBN: 9780571201150
Sylvia Plath's correspondence, addressed chiefly to her mother, from her time at Smith College in the early 1950s up to her suicide in London in February 1963. In addition to her capacity for domestic and writerly happiness, these letters also hint at her potential for deep despair. One wonders just how fully or well this prolix collection of letters, written primarily to Sylvia Plath's mother - editor Aurelia Schober Plath who also contributes a commentary - will serve as autobiography, as amplification, or as anything except externalization of details on that short life which ended with a posthumous question mark. Here Mrs. Plath, claiming some 'sort of psychic osmosis' with her daughter, clearly plays a most devoted role and for the first two thirds of this voluble confessional, Sylvia seems to be writing to her on a girlish high. The letters (those to her brother really say more) are effusive with wonderfuls and thrillings and 'How can I bear the joy of it all.' Even later after her marriage to Ted Hughes they embarrass - 'everything I do with and for Ted has a celestial radiance.' In between, they are a documentary of her work from poems to short stories to the infrequently mentioned novels (including the one she intended as a 'potboiler') and the increasing recognition both she and Ted received with publication, grants, teaching positions, etc., etc. Then come the difficult times (excluded from the Letters Home) when Sylvia was raddled by the two children, the miscarriage in between, the attrition of her creativity, and the harassments of the simple domesticity she used to enjoy and the babies she still loved. After the separation/divorce, Sylvia indicates that she is determined to survive alone, securing the flat in Yeats' house, buying clothes and a new fashionable exterior. (One wonders whether Alvarez' contention that she ended her life 'carelessly and by mistake' might not be right.) But there are those darker moments when she wrote - feverishly - the final poems which would be 'the best poems of my life, they will make my name.' For the most part the correspondence is a less than revealing testimony (her admiration of Ted is unbounded; later after the 'hurtful' time, almost the only allusion, her discretion is absolute), but there will be many to read it - not only th