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Episode 2

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 12 February 2013

On 25 February 1956, 23 year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter was recorded by Plath in her journal and has fed into the mythology of the Plath-Hughes relationship, which has arguably cast a long shadow over Plath's life and work.

In this new biography of Plath's early life, which considers the years before the meeting with Hughes, Andrew Wilson explores the childhood and young womanhood of one of the twentieth century's most influential and best-loved poets.Plath's early years were complex, creative and high-achieving. 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 is inspired by a charismatic high school teacher who recognises her 'lyric gift'.

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 Wood
Abridged by Miranda Davies
Produced by Emma Harding.


The Bell Jar

Image for The Bell Jar

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

50th Anniversary of Sylvia Plath's Death

Image for 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

Image for 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.

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