The Letters of Sylvia Plath

 

And still she speaks to us.

Her editors in New York knew exactly what they were doing with this book design. Just as the Instagram campaign highlighted recently, what you see on the outside is rarely what’s happening on the inside. Look at this beautiful blonde woman, the cover beckons us. Striking debutante? Swimsuit model? New wife and mother who has already “recovered” to her perfect form?

Nope. That’s the face of someone who put her head in an oven while her kids were in their bedrooms and killed herself from carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than 50 years after her death, Parul Sehgal (@parul_sehgal) reviews what may the most intimate look at the famed poet and writer in “Sylvia Plath’s Letters Reveal a Writer Split in Two.”

The title of the tome (1,388 pages), edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, is The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 1: 1940-1956, so you can expect a second volume soon, I imagine.

While works like The Bell Jar are seen as semi-autobiographical, and her poetry now described as “confessional,” there’s no doubt that in these letters Plathophiles will see a side to a woman who has come to represent all that was wrong with mental health diagnosis in the past, especially when it came to depression.

In light of #WorldMentalHealthDay yesterday – and with Plath’s legacy still as strong as ever – hopefully these letters will illuminate parts to her past that have remained hidden up until now, shedding new light on awareness about mental health.

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