Synopses & Reviews
Ted Hughes married Sylvia Plath in 1956, at the outset of their brilliant careers. Plath's suicide six and a half years later, for which many held Hughes accountable, changed his life, his closest relationships, his standing in the literary world, and the style and substance of his verse. In this stunning new biography of their marriage, Diane Middlebrook presents a portrait of Hughes as a man, as a poet, and as a husband haunted and nourished his entire life by the aftermath of his first marriage.
Drawing on a trove of newly available papers Middlebrook presents Hughes as a complicated, conflicted figure: sexually magnetic, fiercely ambitious, immensely caring, and shrewd in business. She argues that Plath's suicide, though it devastated Hughes and made him vulnerable to the savage attacks of Plath's growing readership, ultimately gave him his true subject: how marriages fail and how men fail in marriage.
Writing with the penetrating insight and lucid sympathy that informed her previous bestselling biographies, Middlebrook rises to the multiple challenges presented by this highly fraught, deeply controversial subject. Her Husband is a triumph of the biographer's art and craft.
"The author makes insightful comments about each poet's writing, about their individual artistic growth, and about their collaborations....Some somber new brushstrokes darken an already dismal painting." Kirkus Reviews
"By opening up their poetic life, she finds what drew them together and what, in turn, keeps readers fascinated with them. Her impartiality to this polarizing subject is refreshing." Library Journal
"Joining the recent spate of books about Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, all of which concern the sources of their poetry and their dysfunctional marriage, Middlebrook's is sure to be the gold standard. Astutely reasoned, fluidly written and developed with psychological acuity, the work is a sympathetically balanced assessment of two lives that flamed brightly with the incandescent fire of creative genius." Publishers Weekly
"[O]ne would be tempted to groan at this latest exhumation if only it weren't so transfixing a tale." The New York Times Book Review
"It turns out that we needed to look away from Plath and towards Hughes to see her clearly: close-up distorts. Which is why, although Middlebrook offers one of the most balanced, fair-minded portraits of Plath to date, her representation of Hughes increasingly loses its focus as it leaves Plath behind." Sarah Churchwell, The Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement review
In this "deep, rich, and satisfying biography" ("The Washington Post Book World") of the marriage of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, Diane Middlebrook presents a portrait of Hughes as a man, as a poet, and as a husband haunted--and nourished--his entire life by the aftermath of his first marriage. Photos & illustrations.
Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were husband and wife; they were also two of the most remarkable poets of the twentieth century. In this stunning new account of their marriage, Diane Middlebrook draws on a trove of newly available papers to craft a beautifully written portrait of Hughes as a man, as a poet, and as a husband haunted?and nourished?his entire life by his relationship to Sylvia Plath.
Her Husband is a triumph of the biographer?s art and an up-close look at a couple who saw each other as the means to becoming who they wanted to be: writers and mythic representations of a whole generation.
About the Author
Diane Middlebrook is the author of two highly praised, bestselling biographies, Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton and Anne Sexton: A Biography, which was a National Book Award and was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.
Table of Contents
Her Husband Acknowledgments
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Becoming Her Husband
Chapter One: Meeting (1956)
The "Dairy I"
Chapter Two: Romance (1956)
The White Goddess: Song
"To Ariadne, Deserted by Theseus"
Chapter Three: His Family (1956)
William Henry Hughes (1894-1981)
Edith Farrar Hughes (1898-1969)
Gerald Hughes (1920- )
Chapter Four: Struggling (1956-1963)br> Rabbit Stew
The Luxury of Solitude
Chapter Five: Prospering (1957-1963)
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman
Chapter Six: Separating (1962- )
The Rabbit Catcher
He Said, She Said>
Chapter Seven: Parting (1962-1963)
Plath Turns Thirty: Ariel
London on Her Own
Chapter Eight: Husbandry (1963-1998)
The Wodwo and the Crow
Chapter Nine: Curing Himself (1967-1998)
Knot of Obsessions
Sinking into the Folk-Tale
From Relic Husband to Her Husband
Chapter Ten: The Magical Dead (1984-1998)
Poet of England
The Drama of Completion
Coda: Naked (1998- )
Sources and Notes