This year marks 50 years after Plath's death, so it only makes sense that there would be new biographies to coincide with this round-numbered anniversary. The third book is a memoir titled Grace: A Memoir, by Grace Coddington, Creative Director at American Vogue. You could say that this book was chosen as an antidote to the first two.
Both of the Plath biographies are engaging reads. Wilson's book concentrates only on the time in Plath's life up until she met Ted Hughes in 1956. It's a more in-depth and considered biography, and really opened my eyes to what a dynamic childhood Plath had. It goes into some depth about Plath's unsuccessful suicide attempt in 1953, more so than Rollyson's book, which, since it covers her whole life, understandably focuses with more depth on her actual suicide in 1963.
If you don't know much about Plath, then Rollyson's book would be the better read, because it covers more ground, though it covers it with less depth. If, however, you already know about Plath's life with Ted Hughes, then Wilson's book may be more informative, because other biographies don't go into as much depth about her growing-up years in Massachusetts.
I will admit to being more than a little obsessed after reading these biographies. It had been several years since I had read a Plath biography, so I had forgotten a lot. Afterwards, I dug up an extensive 1993 piece in the New Yorker archives by Janet Malcolm that gave a fascinating look into the tight grip on Plath's legacy that Ted Hughes and his sister Olwyn had for many years. Things have loosened up a bit since Ted Hughes' death, and biographers are less afraid of running afoul of the Hughes family's boundaries.
The book by Grace Coddington was an absolute joy. Coddington is basically second in command at American Vogue, and if you saw the movie The September Issue, you saw her interacting with the iconic Anna Wintour. Coddington has led a fascinating life, and now in her seventies, she's every bit as dynamic as she ever was, creating amazing photo shoots with the world's foremost photographers. She and Wintour are quite different, but they make a great team. The book not only gives insight into what goes on at Vogue, but is also a fascinating history of fashion journalism from the 1960s up through the present day. This is a lovely book, and would make a great gift for the slightly bookish fashionista in your life.
For now I've returned to reading Japanese authors, specifically Shusaku Endo, who also led a fascinating life, a life which definitely influenced the book I'm now reading, the novel When I Whistle. I suppose I will bide my time with a range of Japanese authors until the 2014 English language publication of Haruki Murakami's latest novel,
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.
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