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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Plath in all her Humanity".
"Giving Up" may be very brief, but its pithy prose and sharp insights give us a portrait of Sylvia Plath that avoids hagiography or demonization. The feminist icon of Plath as saintly, if neurotic victim, as damaged genius, does little justice to her erudition, her intellect, and her poignant longing for happiness. Becker's work presents us with an extraordinary mind, not...
Published on 14 Oct 2002 by Digby J. DA-COSTA-RICCI

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is this a real friend writing?
This is a very short book about the last days of Sylvia Plath, an American poet who committed suicide in London in 1963 while suffering severe depression.

Jillian Becker and her husband, Gerry, were the last people Sylvia had contact with the days before taking her own life.

Followers of Sylvia Plath are fascinated not just by her work but also by...
Published on 21 May 2011 by Clara Luna


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Is this a real friend writing?, 21 May 2011
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This review is from: Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath (Paperback)
This is a very short book about the last days of Sylvia Plath, an American poet who committed suicide in London in 1963 while suffering severe depression.

Jillian Becker and her husband, Gerry, were the last people Sylvia had contact with the days before taking her own life.

Followers of Sylvia Plath are fascinated not just by her work but also by her troubled life, and her last days generate a high degree of curiosity in the public. The author could have made more of it and provide a deeper exploration both of their friendship and Sylvia's depressive illness.

Most of the book sounds like a rant from someone who was probably quite a new and superficial friend but who seems to hold a grudge against Sylvia because they didn't get the attention they deserved after her suicide. It's sounds a bit like "Everybody got a bit of the celebrity pie, I deserve mine too!". At one point, the author says she felt "humiliated by Sylvia's disdain" when referring to the fact that Sylvia died without leaving a note to her and her husband. If someone is so depressed so as to take their own life, they should be forgiven for not writing thank you notes or goodbye notes to everyone they know.

The author admits to having felt "envious" of Sylvia's poetry and the whole tone of the book makes you wonder if there was a real friendship between the two. I don't see a lot of empathy coming from the author. She goes off a tangent when she criticises Hughes's poem Dreamers for being anti Semitic, and later condemns Sylvia for comparing her suffering to that of Holocaust victims. The author might have a point, but it sounds as if the book is more about her own issues and defending her own Jewishness than about Sylvia's tragic final days.

The author also puts too much emphasis on the fact that she cooked lovely meals for Sylvia and took care of her and her children for a few days as if to force the audience to give her credits for her actions. I know it must be extremely hard to look after a depressive friend, especially when you have a family yourself, but a true friend makes no fuss about it and just gets on with it. Least of all write a book years later to tell the world she's still expecting recognition for it.

The book left me a sour taste in my mouth. Sylvia was a very sensitive person, who most of her life felt quite like an outsider, hence her comparing herself with Jewish people. She was extremely lonely and desperate in the last days of her life with two small children to look after in a foreign country. I cannot imagine anything sadder than that. Becker's book doesn't pay tribute to their friendship or the times spent together; it's just the diatribe of someone involved in petty gossip and small jealousies, someone who has a huge chip their shoulder because she didn't get her fair share of fame in the Plath-Hughes saga. This story is a vivid illustration of how alienating life must have felt for Sylvia at the time, and that even those who took care of her in her darkest times seemed to be expecting deep down something in return.
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Plath in all her Humanity"., 14 Oct 2002
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Digby J. DA-COSTA-RICCI "Social-History Fanatic" (Johannesburg, South Africa.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath (Paperback)
"Giving Up" may be very brief, but its pithy prose and sharp insights give us a portrait of Sylvia Plath that avoids hagiography or demonization. The feminist icon of Plath as saintly, if neurotic victim, as damaged genius, does little justice to her erudition, her intellect, and her poignant longing for happiness. Becker's work presents us with an extraordinary mind, not simply overflowing emotions, and her view of Plath is utterly plausible, for it is the view of a critical, but always devoted friend.
Becker's depiction of Hughes is also persuasive, including some scathingly perceptive comments on his pseudo-humility and arrogant spite. "Giving Up" is also a masterly piece of brisk literary criticism, and its demolition of the cruel excesses of Hughes's "Birthday Letters" is especially impressive.
It is difficult to categorize such an original work -- memoir? Essay? Literary analysis? "Giving Up" is all of these, and Becker's writing is always lucid, often extremely affecting, and illuminated by flashes of mordant wit. The conclusion of this work is deeply moving, and -- like "Giving Up" as a whole -- it makes one see Plath through new eyes.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Giving Up: the Last Days of Sylvia Plath., 5 Jan 2004
This review is from: Giving Up (Hardcover)
This is a tactful and personal account of the final weeks of Plath's life. Written by a friend who supported her during this time it clarifies both the frailty and autonomy of Plath, whose life has been over-romanticised by myth and assumptions. Well worth reading.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful insight, 25 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath (Paperback)
I found this (yet again!) another compelling book about Sylvia Plath. So honest, pure and true to memory. i could not put it down and read it instantly (it was only short) but i found it refreshing to read a new perspective about Plath and her life/works. the views on her and hughes, their break up, what someone else saw and thought.
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Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath
Giving Up: The Last Days of Sylvia Plath by Jillian Becker (Paperback - 23 May 2002)
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