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Episode 4

On 25 February 1956, 23 year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter - now one of the most famous in all literary history - was recorded by Plath in her journal, where she described Hughes as a 'big, dark, hunky boy'. The mythology of the Plath-Hughes relationship has arguably cast a long shadow over Plath's life and work.

In this new biography of Plath's early life, before the meeting with Hughes, Andrew Wilson considers the childhood and young womanhood of one of the twentieth century's most influential and loved poets. Before she met Hughes, Plath had lived a complex, creative and high-achieving life. Her father had died when she was only eight, she had watched her mother struggle to put her children through college, had dated a large number of men, had been unofficially engaged, had tried to commit suicide and had written over 200 poems.

Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before, and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this new book traces the early literary and emotional development of the author of 'The Bell Jar' (this week's Radio 4 Book at Bedtime).

In today's episode, Plath starts work at Mademoiselle magazine in New York.

Read by Hayley Atwell

Sylvia Plath is read by Sasha Pick, Eddie Cohen by Ben Crowe, Richard Sassoon by Will Howard and Aurelia Plath by Hannah Woods

Abridged by Miranda Davies

Produced by Emma Harding.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Fri 15 Feb 2013 00:30

50th Anniversary of Sylvia Plath's Death

50th Anniversary of Sylvia Plath's Death

John Humphrys on Sylvia Plath's relationship with Ted Hughes and it's impact on her work.

Open Book

Ali Smith on the 50th anniversary of The Bell Jar; Alex Preston on innovation in the novel

Mariella Frostrup talks to Ali Smith about Sylvia Plath's celebrated novel The Bell Jar.

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath's haunting and iconic only novel, broadcast on its 50th anniversary.