2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One sided story,
This review is from: Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath (Penguin non-fiction) (Paperback)
The best parts of this book are Stevenson's analysis of Plath's poetry, but even this has to be seen as fed through a prism of cynicism. Whilst I am certain that Plath was a troubled and therefore not necesarily easy person, I find it hard to believe Stevenson's portrayal of Hughes as a Saint who finally snapped. Everything about Plath is tinged with antipathy on a surprising level. More than anything the lack of insight into mental distress, and bi-polar, the lack of understanding as to how this can cause people to operate, to suffer, to react, to feel is deeply annoying and unjust. Are we really to believe that Plath manipulated Hughes from their marriage to her death, that he had no agency, no self determination? Surely that is as insulting to him as those that hold him ultimately responsible for Plath's suicide.
Overall a deeply disapointing biography because how can you truly take on the job of representing someone's life if you can't put yourself in their shoes in order to illuminate their actions? Not to mention how bizarre it is that Stevenson appears to judge Plath for using her experiences and those around her as 'grist to the mill' of her writing. Isn't that what all writers do? They aren't writing to give a fair account of someone else, they write to express their own ideas and experiences. Stevenson also makes the classic mistake of mistaking the authorial I for the author themselves and demanding Plath holds congruent reality in her work. This from another writer? Or is her tribute to Olwyn Hughes her way of signifying that the opinions in the last chapters are Hughes' big sister's rather than Stevensons own?