Background reading ahead of Letters of Sylvia Plath: 1940 – 1956

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 17:58

Sylvia Plath’s early correspondence is the subject of a new book, Letters of Sylvia Plath: 1940 – 1956, and the inspiration for a very special event at this year’s London Literature Festival. It features a cast of well-known faces reading excerpts from the book. These letters reveal the emergence of a young writer who would go on to become one of the most influential of the 20th century, in spite of her short life.

The book is published by Faber & Faber in the autumn, and our event takes place on Sunday 29 October at Royal Festival Hall. If you’re interested in reading more about Plath, beyond her famous poetry collections, here are some suggestions.

The Journals of Sylvia Plath edited by Karen V. Kukil
These journals cover the last 12 years of Plath’s life, during which she wrote her most famous poetry, married Ted Hughes and battled with depression. Not only are they an interesting biographical document, but they’ve been praised for their energetic, absorbing writing style.

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Mad Girl’s Love Song by Andrew Wilson
Like Letters of Sylvia Plath: 1940 – 1956, this biography focuses on Plath’s earlier life. It draws on interviews with friends and lovers who’d not previously spoken about the poet, as well as archive material that had not been accessed before.

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The Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
Plath’s husband, the poet Ted Hughes, was famously reluctant to talk about their relationship so the decision to publish this book, in 1998, came as a surprise. It is a collection of 88 poems written in response to Plath’s suicide and the myths that have surrounded her since, and is regarded by many as a masterpiece.

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And of course. . .

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This somewhat autobiographical novel was published under a pseudonym in 1963 and is a classic of the coming-of-age genre. It tells the story of a young woman taking her first steps as an adult in Manhattan, her disappointments, struggles with depression and steps to recovery.

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Letters of Sylvia Plath: 1940 – 1956 takes place on Sunday 29 October, 2017 at 7.30pm in Royal Festival Hall as part of London Literature Festival. Check back for full details of the line-up of readers.

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