Courageous, honest, painful, yearning, and occasionally even funny, the unexpurgated diaries and journals of poet and novelist Plath show a woman struggling to develop her talent against the social constraints of her day.
Don’t look for fresh scandal here; the few scandalous moments were reported earlier this year with the publication of the British edition, and (as most Plath readers know) the journals preceding her suicide were destroyed. Look instead for the slow, day-by-day maturing of a romantic, somewhat silly girl into a sensitive, hard-working, valiant woman, who coped frequently with bouts of depression, bemoaned that she was “doomed” to be a woman, and battled the “shoulds” and “musts” that were the heritage of her era and her gender. Edited by Kukil, the Smith College curator responsible for the Sylvia Plath Collection, this edition begins as Plath is about to enter Smith in 1950 and continues to the end of 1959. There are no entries for her stay in a psychiatric institution, novelized in The Bell Jar, or for her senior year at Smith. There are a few fragments as late as 1962, describing the birth of her second child at home. These so-called fragments, gathered in 15 appendices, contain some lengthy notes of trips, a hospital stay, drawings, and vignettes of neighbors and friends. Among the new material is the occasionally tedious diary of a year teaching at her alma mater (including some acid comments about colleagues), plus notes on her 1959 sessions with a therapist (where she describes herself as “thrilled” to be given permission “to hate one’s mother”). Plath loved cooking and clothes, and there are details of meals and her wardrobe (as well as romances and sexual encounters) throughout, along with avowals of her love and admiration for her husband, Ted Hughes. Extensive notes identify the people mentioned in the journals.
Inspiring and informative. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)