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Ted Hughes: The Life of a Poet Paperback – 17 Feb 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (17 Feb. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393323625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393323627
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,073,919 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

'This is an admirable book, fond but fair; hard to believe it could be bettered any time soon' (The Times)

'It is a story full of fascination, told with judicious candour' (The Independent) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The first biography of the former Poet Laureate, famous for his marriage to Sylvia Plath, the subject of his bestseller, Birthday Letters, which has sold over 100,000 copies. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Elaine Feinstein's biography of Ted Hughes is more than just a biography, it is an attempt to set the record straight about one of the most talented and compelling poets of the twentieth century which is no easy task when one considers the public pillorying Hughes received from the Cult of Plath that built up in the 1970s. Nevertheless, Feinstein does, to a great extent, reveal the charm, confidence and element of reserve that went into Hughes' character, along with his early decision to dedicate his life to poetry.

It could possibly be argued that Feinstein allows too much sentiment, from her longstanding friendship with Hughes, to affect what she is willing to write about him, something which comes across especially clearly when she is describing his multiple long-running affairs in the 1970s without mentioning the feelings of his second wife or how his behaviour affected her. Still, unlike in some reviews I have read, I didn't think that Sylvia Plath was unfairly pilloried, but that Feinstein had gone to great trouble to present a clear picture of the complicated relationship between two complex, incredibly talented people, while also showing that Hughes came out of his relationship with Plath almost as damaged as she had been.

Furthermore, Feinstein also points up the great integrity that compelled Hughes to publish Plath's Ariel poems after her death purely because he saw in them the strength of Plath's genius, despite the fact that they presented him in a harsh, unforgiving, and entirely unfair light, and Plath's use of some of their most difficult private moments as material for her work left Hughes feeling profoundly betrayed.
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By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
Ted Hughes was a famously private man (particularly after his first wife Sylvia Plath's suicide) and this is the first full biography to be written of him. In many ways, Feinstein has done a good job. She's interviewed a host of people who knew Ted from his childhood to his death, she reveals much previously unpublished information about Ted's second longterm partner Assia Wevill (this book came out several years before the biography of Assia Wevill, for which see earlier review), she has some interesting things to say about some of the poetry, and she gives, particularly in the early part of the book, some interesting information about what Hughes's daily life must have been like and about the circles in which he moved. She is also, as is clear from her other biographies, novels and poems, a very good writer.

All the same, Hughes for much of the book remains a somewhat shadowy figure - there is little in the text that brings alive his charisma, sense of personal warmth and fun, and sheer energy. Although she was a friend of Ted and his sister Olwyn, I think Feinstein may have brought this book out as an unauthorized biography - this might explain the bizarre fact that Ted's second wife Carol hardly gets a mention, that there's very little about his children after the death of their mother and that we get little idea of what Ted was like as a husband or a father. Although Feinstein does talk quite a bit about Hughes's poetry, she concentrates largely on the darker and larger-scale poems: there's little about his marvellous work as a translator (cited by many academics as some of the greatest in the business), about his playful creation myths or his occasional foray into the short story.
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Format: Paperback
As the title suggests, this is not a life-and-works biography but an account focusing on Ted Hughes's life. Nevertheless, elements of literary criticism are at times woven neatly into the narrative where Hughes's poetry is illuminated by the events of his life. The author's personal acquaintance with Hughes is made clear from the outset, and this provides an unusual shape to the book which begins as biographical work of pure research but evolves to include greater degrees of personal memoir.

The account of Hughes's relationship with Sylvia Plath is written with good measure and is generally objective (as is perhaps the most successful approach for discussing such a controversial and volatile relationship). Overall, however, Feinstein is largely sympathetic towards Hughes on the issue of Plath's depression and eventual suicide, although Plath herself is painted as a difficult character, to the point of being unreasonable.

As Hughes was such a prolific poet with an eventful life, this is a surprisingly short biography (the main text comprises 244 pages) and so Hughes's personal character remains rather enigmatic although the events and relationships that inspired and compelled him in his work are well documented. The richness of details and quality of writing make this an engaging and thought-provoking biographical account that will sit well on the shelf alongside Hughes's Collected Poems.
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By A Customer on 5 April 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the first biography I have read about Ted Hughes and his relationship with Sylvia Plath and although it is well written it was difficult to get a 'real'feel for what made him tick or understand the depth of his feelings for any of the women that entered his life. It did however make me curious to find out more about both him and Sylvia Plath as individuals.
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