The first biography of this great and tragic poet that takes advantage of a wealth of new material, this is an unusually balanced, comprehensive and definitive life of Sylvia Plath.
*WINNER OF THE SLIGHTLY FOXED PRIZE 2021*
*A BOOK OF THE YEAR IN THE DAILY TELEGRAPH AND THE TIMES*
Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark presents new materials about Plath's scientist father, her juvenile writings, and her psychiatric treatment, and evokes a culture in transition in the mid-twentieth century, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Sylvia's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; and her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a true marriage of minds that would change the course of poetry in English.
Clark's clear-eyed sympathy for Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath's suicide promotes a deeper understanding of her final days, with their outpouring of first-rate poems. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark's meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world over.
A first-class biography... Red Comet is a mighty achievement. Clark is compassionate, clear-eyed, sceptical. Each chapter reads with the ease of a novel... I couldn't put it down.
Rescuing Sylvia Plath from the cult of her fans...[Red Comet,] a terrific, even-handed biography of Plath frees the poet from the narrow view of her as 'a mind on course for suicide'... Heather Clark's meticulous research, sweeping up every scrap, deftly integrates drafts, unpublished pieces, stories and critiques of poems...to make this extraordinary story more moving than ever.
At last, there is Red Comet, a major biography that recognises Sylvia Plath...and recovers her from cliché. It is a superbly researched, fluent and assured book...and Heather Clark writes with a rare empathy and understanding of her subject... Not one sentence seems extraneous... Red Comet reveals Plath as she ought to be seen.
Clark's defining project, both a joyful affirmation for Plath fanatics and a legitimization of her legacy... Clark masterfully analyses the poetry with intelligent incorporation of the biography... In this mammoth biography of a short, troubled life, the deepest impression is of [Plath's] resilience and dogged energy.
Finally, the biography that Sylvia Plath deserves, one that takes her seriously as both a poet and a person. Combining rigorous research with in-depth literary analysis and immersive style, Heather Clark's magisterial book not only traces Plath's influences and inspirations, but also chronicles her often-tumultuous relationships with respect and empathy. A spectacular achievement.