On 25 February 1956, twenty-three-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter - now one of the most famous in all literary history - was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a 'big, dark, hunky boy'. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured Plath's life and work. The sensational aspects of the Plath-Hughes relationship have dominated the cultural landscape to such an extent that their story has taken on the resonance of a modern myth.
After Plath's suicide in February 1963, Hughes became Plath's literary executor, the guardian of her writings, and, in effect responsible for how she was perceived. But Hughes did not think much of Plath's prose writing, viewing it as a 'waste product' of her 'false self', and his determination to market her later poetry - poetry written after she had begun her relationship with him - as the crowning glory of her career, has meant that her other earlier work has been marginalised.
Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight, she had gone out with literally hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide and had written over 200 poems. Mad Girl's Love Songwill trace through these early years the sources of her mental instabilities and will examine how a range of personal, economic and societal factors - the real disquieting muses - conspired against her.
Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet. Mad Girl's Love Songreclaims Sylvia Plath from the tangle of emotions associated with her relationship with Ted Hughes and reveals the origins of her unsettled and unsettling voice, a voice that, fifty years after her death, still has the power to haunt and disturb.
Andrew Wilson is the highly acclaimed author of biographies of Patricia Highsmith, Sylvia Plath and Alexander McQueen. His first novel, The Lying Tongue, was published in 2007. His journalism has appeared in the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the Sunday Times, the Daily Mail and the Washington Post.
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