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on 16 April 2001
Since Plath's suicide in 1963, many people have attempted to search for answers in Plath's writing as to why she chose to take her life. This collection of journals is satisfying not because it can provide answers to why she killed herself (we will never have the definitive answer to that, and besides, her last two journals prior to the suicide are not included here - one was lost, the other destroyed by Ted Hughes). No, reading these journals is satisfying because the writer exudes pure talent. Whilst reading you are forced to stand back, awe-struck, at the skill with which she could write, even at the age of eighteen. What we see is someone who is driven, someone with aspirations, and a desire to be successful in everything she does. And yet, alongside this ambition, is someone full of rage and insecurity. Plath's desires battled against one another - the need to be a well-respected, published writer: 'I depend too desperately on getting my poems, my little glib poems, accepted by the New Yorker', and the desire to be a wife and mother, and enter the world of pleasant domesticity: 'I long to permeate the matter of this world: to become anchored to life by laundry and lilacs, daily bread and fried eggs...'
I could not recommend this book more highly, whether you are an admirer of Plath's work or not, and anyone wishing to become a writer themselves could certainly do worse than to look to collection for inspiration.
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This attractively presented volume of Sylvia Plath's diaries and journals is the unabridged edition, the text being an exact and complete transcription of the twenty-three original manuscripts in the Sylvia Plath Collection at Smith College, Massachusetts. The poet began to keep diaries at the age of eleven and she continued to do so until her untimely death at the age of thirty - the journals in this edition are mostly of her adult years and cover the period from 1950 until 1962 - however the entries included from 1960-1962 consist of a few journal fragments only. The Preface to this volume informs the reader that when in 1981 Smith College acquired all of the manuscripts remaining from the Plath Estate, two of the journals were sealed by Ted Hughes until 11th February 2013. However, both journals were unsealed by Ted Hughes shortly before his death in 1998 and are presented in their entirety in this edition. The two bound journals that Sylvia Plath wrote during the last three years of her life are not included; one of the journals seems to have disappeared and the other, which contained entries to within three days of the poet's suicide, was destroyed by Hughes. However, what we have here, in this volume of journals, makes for compelling reading.

"I may never be happy, but tonight I am content..." so begins the first entry for July 1950 and as we move forward we read of Plath's worries over her attractiveness to the opposite sex: "First I need a boy to be captivated by my appearance... then I need someone real who will be right for me now, here, and soon. Until then I'm lost. I think I am mad at times." As we read on we learn about Plath's time at Smith College, her period at Cambridge, her meeting with Ted Hughes, of course; of their marriage, their children, her teaching, her writing, her worries, her insecurities, her hopes and fears ... and a huge amount more. This volume of journals, which is nicely presented and with a good selection of photographs, gives the reader a wonderfully intimate portrait of the poet and an opportunity to read the diaries as they were written in her own distinctive voice and where her talent for writing shines through. Intriguing, fascinating, poignant, raw and very immediate, these journal entries are, I feel, best read in measured doses and perhaps alongside one of the biographies - Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath (Penguin non-fiction) or Mad Girl's Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted. Recommended.

Please note: I first read these journals several years ago, but my original copy was mislaid and has now been replaced with this latest paperback copy. As far as I am aware, this edition is a newly-covered edition of the 2001 publication: The Journals of Sylvia Plath and not an entirely new edition.
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on 29 March 2000
I was skeptical about this publication. I already own the abridged edition of Plath's journals and wasn't sure that this book would provide new information. But I'm glad I ordered it. The wealth of material provides a more comprehensive perspective. The book follows Plath from the insecure teenage years through her first breakdown, her first serious love affair and up to her marriage and finally motherhood. It details her struggles with depression, but most of all her incredible vitality and love of life - of colours, textures, food, sex and literature - seem to jump off the pages. Plath's journals for her last three years are not available; one was destroyed, the other stolen. And the remaining journals are full of fragments and missing bits, raising more questions than they answer. The fascination of this book is that the enigma of Sylvia Plath remains. At times she is a trite, boy crazy college girl, then she is suicidally depressed, then struggling with sinusitis, writing and working, hoping and dreaming, loving and despising, posing for an audience, manipulating to hide her vulnerability, paradoxically always striving for authenticity in her life and work. This book doesn't answer the question: Who was Sylvia? - except maybe in her own words: "A passionate, fragmentary girl".
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on 3 December 1999
One frustration Plath lovers may have of this book is all the irritating deletions. However, this is a luminous and touching document of Plath's evolution as a poet and as a woman. While it does not cover the period of her final creative fury, we see glimmers of the fiery Ariel she was later to become. There is a curious aspect to all of Plath's writings, seen here just as well as in her poetry, and that is the fact of feeling you have read her words somewhere before. One of Plath's most compelling poetic talents is the element of spirtual nostalgia-- we see things we have half-felt or half-dreamed, emotions we have half-experienced, suddenly blown larger than life before our eyes. Don't read this for any sordid details of Plath's disturbed life. You won't find anything shocking beyond the usual shock of reading the most personal thoughts of someone else. Read it for her views on life, art, and for her lovely use of the English language in depicting images and thoughts. Highly recommended.
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on 5 August 1998
Plath's journals covers the period from her time at Smith college, through Cambridge and marriage to Ted Hughes and provides insights into the formation of her poetry. She seems to have used the journal as a testing ground for her poetic idealism. The book stands in stark contrast to her novel 'The Bell Jar' which provides a chilling, anticeptic disassociated account of a mental breakdown. The journal is much more personal, lively and chaotic. It provides an invaluable context to Sylvia Plath's work and is highly recommended.
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on 12 February 2017
I'm only on page 43. And I feel compelled to write a review. This has almost instantly become my favourite book. Plath is so profound, so wise and insightful.
"I have much to live for, yet unaccountably I am sick and sad."
It is printed as close to the way it was written as possible, with an index of notes you can skip or look at as you go through.
If you thought anything at all of The Bell Jar, you will not be disappointed with this.
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on 8 August 2002
Not knowing much about Plath, I read 'The Bell Jar' before finding this book. As a great reader of people's journals I thought it would give me a closer look at one of the most famous writers, well, ever. In so many places it could have been me talking, and in so many more I wish it was. As her private journals for her eyes only, they show how Plath's expression of the world around her could be re-created on the page, showing the same care and precision that was used in her novel and poetry. How many other people's diaries are as expressive as this?
A great read for anyone interested in Plath or Hughes, or anyone just interested in reading the private thoughts of a great writer!
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on 29 July 2000
I wish I could have given this book 5 stars, the content is riveting, but I decided to give it four because of the editing by Karen V. Kukil.
The Journals of Sylvia Plath as we all know are incomplete, they were edited (sanitized) by her husband Ted Hughes. No doubt whatsoever that the material he 'lost' was detrimental to him. The only thing he allows in the book is her account of his dalliance with a student, after which she begins to see him in a different light. It leaves you at the end of the book feeling very sorry for this woman, and wanting to find out more. (Which one can't help feeling was a marketing ploy by Hughes, who sold the rights to her book the Bell Jar to the Americans after her death in spite of her mother's objections, so that he could raise the money to buy a third home).
Sylvia Plath was brilliant, sexy, vivacious and sociable. She was also completely obsessed with analyzing the working of her mind, her emotions and sensitivities. She was narcissistic, selfish and critical to the point of meanness. The rawness of her emotions is hard to take sometimes. What a normal person would consider to be a rough sea of life and cope accordingly, she turns into a force 10 hurricane. One cannot help feeling that the journals were written to be published, that the author KNEW someday they would be discovered and read by everyone. The writing is beautiful. The very first entry July 1950 is a delight:-
"I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathed in cream......"
Once started, it is hard to put the book down.
A word now about the editing. I think the book could have been better organized for the general reader, it is formatted like a text book. All the cross-referencing! I had to use two bookmarks all the way through the reading of the book. The 'Notes' could have been at the bottom of each page instead of hidden at the back of the book. The Appendices could have been Notes at the end of each appertaining journal section, and the Index could have been better arranged. The section on Sylvia Plath (which takes up 5 1/2 pages of the index) should have been separated from the rest, to make it less confusing.
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on 30 April 2000
"The Journals of Sylvia Plath" is essential reading for those who truly desire to get to the heart of Plath's brilliant poetry. Because she is one of the innovators of "confessional" poetry (along with her friend and contemporary, Anne Sexton), the direct inspiration for Plath's verse is nothing less than her very personal life, and without a grasp of that life, it is impossible to fully appreciate the poetry. The "Journals", now in their most complete form to date, are the very best source of insight into the intricate workings of a mind of pure genius as it both processed and reacted to the numerous hurdles that life threw its way. Of course, it was precisely how she struggled with these hurdles that Plath painstakingly versified and concealed under layers and layers of metaphorical language and complicated structural schemes, the end result of which is poetry that at once screams of raw truth while actively challenging the reader to channel all of his/her faculties toward the difficult but exhilarating task of excavating this truth from the artistry. But even apart from the poetry, Plath's "Journals" is quite simply one of the most beautifully written and heartrending works of American prose of the twentieth century.
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on 23 May 2000
Whilst studying Ariel in English literature at a-level, it seemed only appropriate to read Plath's journals. They give such an insight to her deteriorating state of mind and indeed, her whole existance. Plath's reasoning behind her poems becomes clearer having read her journals. Even the things that, to us as readers appear to be very trivial are vital clues to implications made in her poems. It is a moving set of diary entries that, in conjunction with The Bell Jar make us really start to understand Plath's final years.
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