This month I had a bit of a Sylvia Plath-athon. Our book club choice was a biography of Plath by Andrew Wilson, 'Mad Girl's Love Song'. It covers, in great detail, her early life up until she met Ted Hughes at Cambridge. I liked this book, it was informative and the author had obviously researched the subject very well. Views were mixed ( as ever!) at book club, many felt Plath was such a dreary character and this book was TOO detailed. I disagree, Plath was fascinating, a deeply troubled but tremendously gifted girl who wanted to kick against the path that was still expected of young women of a certain class in America in the 1950s. Wilson's book gave me a real insight into her early life and made me want to re-read her novel, 'The Bell Jar'.
I first read Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar' when I was a teenager, full of Mancunian angst. I may not have shared many of Sylvia's life experiences but, as with 'Catcher In The Rye', the book captures that feeling of alienation and suffocation that is universal to most young adults. Reading it now, after the biography and as a middle-aged woman, it is still powerful but rather than identifying with Esther (Sylvia) it was fascinating to read Sylvia's thinly veiled autobiography of her slide into clinical depression. The book is over fifty years old now, yet the writing seems still so original and fresh.
Our next book for book club is 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley. I have never read this, I'm not a fan of futuristic dystopia ( struggled with 1984 to be honest, so depressing) but it was a fascinating read. Even though it appears very dated at times, it also appears contemporary at others. It was bleak but strangely believable and had powerful points to make about religion, mass consumption and what it means to be happy. Not a easy/simple read but I'm glad I finally tackled it and look forward to the lively debate it will cause at book club night!
Finally, I have heard Natalie Haynes on Radio 4 a few times, she is a comedienne and classicist and 'The Amber Fury' is her debut novel. It was a page-turner, telling the story of a bereaved young teacher who works at a unit for troubled teenagers. She enacts Greek dramas with them and we know that something catastrophic has occurred from the beginning. I could see where the plot was going but I thought the writing was very lively and fresh, with all the characters being effectively depicted.
I've suddenly realised all my reads this month were on the depressing side! I'm currently gripped by ' The Goldfinch' but maybe some light relief is in order afterwards!