An exemplary edition offering a textured portrait of an iconic poet.



Six years of hope and joy end with a spiraling descent to suicide.

Journals, soul-baring poems, autobiographical fiction, and several biographies and critical studies have made the trajectory and struggles of Sylvia Plath’s (1932-1963) life familiar. Nevertheless, the second volume of her correspondence, edited, annotated, and introduced by Plath scholars Steinberg and Kukil, offers new revelations: unabridged letters to her mother and letters to the psychiatrist who treated Plath in the U.S. until 1959 and by letter after Plath settled in England. In an exceptionally sensitive foreword, Plath’s daughter writes of her stunned reaction when these intimate letters came to light in 2016, her trepidation about reading them, and the insights they gave her about her parents’ intense, almost claustrophobic love and the dramatic end of their marriage. It was her generous and well-considered decision to allow them into this volume. In hundreds of letters to her mother, Plath ebulliently and insistently conveys her happiness about writing, motherhood, and—until she discovers Hughes’ affair—her marriage. She portrays Hughes as nothing less than an Adonis: “a kind, handsome, wonderful person”; virile and attractive; a genius who, without a doubt, will achieve greatness as a poet. He tenderly nurses her through colds, flu, and a miscarriage and happily plays with his daughter in the mornings so that Plath can write. Even when struggling financially, even when they both try to write in a cramped two-room apartment, Plath betrays no chink in the gleaming surface of their marriage. In 1959, though, when both are in residence at Yaddo, she admits, “I am so happy we can work apart, for that is what we’ve really needed.” Correspondents include Plath’s brother; Hughes’ parents (to whom she writes ingratiating encomiums about their son) and his overbearing sister; friends, fellow poets, and assorted relatives; and many editors who publish her work. Although worries and anxiety occasionally creep in, not until the end does she become overwhelmed with frustration, anger, and a desperate fear of madness.

An exemplary edition offering a textured portrait of an iconic poet.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-274058-8

Page Count: 1088

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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