Top critical review
19 October 2018
These poems, addressed to Sylvia Plath 35 years after her suicide, are often powerful, sometimes barely comprehensible. They present a roughly chronological account of their life together. The tone is overwhelmingly dark, everything ends up being sinister. What makes this particularly suspect to me is that I have just read the newly published volume 2 of Plath's letters, covering all but the first few months of their marriage. She comes across as predominantly happy. In particular, from October 61 to August 62, when she was busy setting up their dream house in Devon, she is rejoicing in her finds of furniture and carpets and her beloved Bendix. She worshipped Ted, writing enthusiastically of his every success, delighted with his work in the Devon house and garden. In her last letter, to her psychiatrist, she blames herself for having been too dependent on him, but in fact they had quite separate daily lives, she being very housewifely, cooking and laundering, while he dug and planted, each writing alone for hours in separate studies, taking it in turns to look after the babies. Everything crashed after he ran off to Assia Wevill, only 2 years into her third marriage 'slightly filthy with erotic mystery'. What woman would not be depressed in the circumstances? There is a great irony; Path relates that somebody else had put down his deposit for their flat at Primrose Hill, but, because they like the Wevills, they tore up his cheque. There is a missing poem 'Last Letter', discovered and published in 2010, which deals with the last days of Plath's life. In it Hughes came close to admitting his responsibility for her death. I have to consider this whole book to be special pleading, and it leaves a nasty taste.