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 brought new significance to his poetry.
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. How marriages fail and how men fail in marriages is one of the book's central themes.
"Middlebrook's [book] 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)
"The most balanced, most literary and interpretatively astute, and best-written analysis yet of the saga of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes." (Booklist)
"Sympathetic but resolutely unsentimental....intelligent, sensitive, at times harrowing." (Joyce Carol Oates, Washington Post Book World)
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Tragedy is a good formula.