This engrossing debut novel depicts Sylvia Plath's feverish artistic process in the bitter aftermath of her failed marriage to Ted Hughes -- the excruciating yet astoundingly productive period during which she wrote Ariel, her defining last collection of poems. In December 1962, shortly before her suicide, Plath moved with her two children to London from the Hugheses' home in Devon. Focusing on the weeks after their arrival, but weaving back through the years of Plath's marriage, Kate Moses imagines the poet juggling the demands of motherhood and muse, shielding her life from her own mother, and by turns cherishing and demonizing her relationship with Hughes. Richly imagined yet meticulously faithful to the actual events of Plath's life, Wintering locates within the isolation and terror of Plath's despair remarkable moments of exhilaration and fragile hope. ---from the Anchor Books U.S. paperback edition
Kate gives an overview of the book:
Her baby is propped on her lap, as directed. With her photogenic house behind her, she faces the orchard and the flourishing garden, the banks of rampant flowers that the camera won't see. The overcast sky, an impenetrable slab of heavy, shadowless light, presses itself to the landscape like an ether-soaked cloth. The poppies and the dahlia blooms struggle, tossing their breeze-blown heads. She holds Nick steady under the arms, her fingers splayed over his footed coveralls as he frowns and stares and flails his fists. Frieda sits beside her on the grass, pensive in her ironed dress and Mary Janes, hands busy with a toy, a wooly dog with felt eyelashes tucked loosely under her elbow, a doll buggy off to one side. Ted fumbles with her mother's camera, waiting. Her mother passes through the composition like a nurse, collecting the tumbled dog for Frieda, arranging, rolling the buggy out of sight. Kneeling beside her daughter for the final tableau, prim in her traveling suit. Nick flexes his toes and squints. Sylvia submits. She's hollow-eyed, pale, subdued. She gives off a low-voltage hum; she knows they can hear it. If they were to cut her open she would glow, phosphorescent, like the cobalt-boned eels she and Ted caught on their honeymoon in Spain. She hated Spain. The whole country was a graveyard. Ted draws the camera to his face and holds it steady, stepping back into the soft soil beneath the rustling pole beans. Stumbling in his own dirt. He doesn't care--he's as closed to her as the sky. His paradise is but a phone call away. Or was. It's winter now, all right. It's so cold it burns. Her sweater is buttoned almost to the neck. She stares down the slit of his single, guilty eye. Yes, she'll give him a picture: her shredded little soul, overexposed. The bloody tatters of their marriage dangling from her wrists like the layers sliced back on a cadaver. She scrapes her face together into a smile. The shutter clicks. It's time to rush her mother to the station. The flowers go on dreaming, kicking in their sleep like dogs. ---Chapter Eight, "Tulips," from Wintering, A Novel of Sylvia Plath by Kate Moses
Kate Moses is the author of the internationally acclaimed Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath (St. Martin’s Press 2003, Anchor Books 2003). Published in thirteen languages, Wintering received the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for best novel by an American woman in 2003, and the...