Review: The Journals of Sylvia Plath — Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes

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Book List
61. Skyward — Mary Alice Monroe
62. The Journals of Sylvia Plath — Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes

Full disclaimer: this is not the right cover; I did not read the unabridged diaries because holy crap it’s like 700 pages. Google Images just wasn’t working with me.

I don’t think I need to give you a plot summary with this one — it is, quite simply, the diaries of Sylvia Plath from 1950 until three months before her suicide in 1963. The book comes with a foreword by her estranged husband, Ted Hughes, who made huge omissions to the book and got rid of the entries that led up to her suicide.

I’ll be quite honest, I don’t know exactly how to give a review of someone’s diary entries, given that they are an almost daily account of how she was thinking and feeling. Who am I to comment on that?

However, I will say that it was hard to read without feeling sad with or for Sylvia. Given the time in which she was growing up, and the roles women were expected to want to perform (housewife, mother), she was incredibly conflicted between her desire to be a career woman and to write, as well as her desire to fit in and be sociable and have someone love her. Not to mention that she had so many moments of self-doubt when it came to her talent as a writer (and she needn’t have, because she was an incredibly brilliant writer); it’s completely understandable that she suffered with depression!

I admired how straight-forward she was with herself, and how analytical. I don’t think that many of us are like that — we like to lie to ourselves about what we’re feeling or why, whereas Sylvia used her diary as a place to work it out. Who am I? Why am I feeling this way? What can I do to make myself feel better?

It was almost disturbing, I found, how she wrote almost with this idea of audience, like she expected that someday someone would read them. I don’t know about most people, but when I kept a diary it was full of silly rage and incoherency and I’d just die of embarrassment if anyone was to see that; Sylvia, it seems, was the opposite. Her diary fulfilled its typical function — a place where she could be uncompromisingly honest about her feelings — but it was filled with such articulateness that doesn’t often come in that medium. Did she think one day it would be public record?

Also particularly eerie was how much of Sylvia I saw in myself; not the parent issues, but the drive, the ambition, to be a successful woman writer. She’d write something and it would be something I’ve considered more than once.

Definitely worth a read, but it’s a big, thick book so it’ll be a long commitment

Next book: Dust Tracks on a Road — Zora Neale Hurston

Next feature: Oh, the usual.

– Kelsey


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