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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography • “One of the most beautiful biographies I've ever read." (Glennon Doyle, author of number-one New York Times best seller, Untamed)

The highly anticipated biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

With a wealth of never-before-accessed materials - including unpublished letters and manuscripts; court, police, and psychiatric records; and new interviews - Heather Clark brings to life the brilliant daughter of Wellesley, Massachusetts who had poetic ambition from a very young age and was an accomplished, published writer of poems and stories even before she became a star English student at Smith College in the early 1950s. 

Determined not to read Plath's work as if her every act, from childhood on, was a harbinger of her tragic fate, Clark evokes a culture in transition, in the shadow of the atom bomb and the Holocaust, as she explores Plath's world: her early relationships and determination not to become a conventional woman and wife; her conflicted ties to her well-meaning, widowed mother; her troubles at the hands of an unenlightened mental-health industry; her Cambridge years and thunderclap meeting with Ted Hughes, a marriage of true minds that would change the course of poetry in English; and much more. 

Clark's clear-eyed portraits of Hughes, his lover Assia Wevill, and other demonized players in the arena of Plath's suicide promotes a deeper understanding of her final days, with their outpouring of first-rate poems. Along with illuminating readings of the poems themselves, Clark's meticulous, compassionate research brings us closer than ever to the spirited woman and visionary artist who blazed a trail that still lights the way for women poets the world ove

©2020 Heather Clark (P)2020 Random House Audio

What the critics say

“Mesmerizing ... Comprehensive ... Stuffed with heretofore untold anecdotes that illuminate or extend our understanding of Plath’s life ... Clark is a felicitous writer and a discerning critic of Plath’s poetry ... There is no denying the book’s intellectual power and, just as important, its sheer readability.” (Daphne Merkin, The New York Times)

“A major biography that redeems Plath from the condescension of easy interpretation ... [Clark] meticulously explores Plath’s omnivorous literary interests and busy social life ... The author’s attention to specifics serves her very well in the closing pages, as she tracks how Plath’s depression, anxiety over her literary standing, despair over her failed marriage, and fear of institutionalization speeded her death even while those same forces inspired indelible, harrowing late poems.” (Kirkus Reviews starred review)

“A page-turning, meticulously researched biography of Sylvia Plath. Informed by never-before-accessed documents, Clark builds a narrative that gathers full force ... [Her] in-depth scholarship and fine writing result in a superb work that will deliver fresh revelations to Plath’s many devoted fans.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) 

What listeners say about Red Comet

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  • BlueDevil
  • 2020-10-28

Amazing!

I haven’t reached the end yet, but I have read every Plath biography and book I have ever been able to get my hands on, and own a few on audio as well. I just knew this one would not disappoint, since the author had access to some previously unseen/recently available-for-the-first-time materials.

The narrator is great! I like to listen at bedtime, she has a soothing, quiet, soft voice and is engaging. I knew the book would be a must-have, was HOPING the audio version would have a good narrator, and this does not disappoint.

As for the biographical material. Very thorough and in depth. I have heard many details so far that I have not heard before. So far everything is in greater detail. No Plath biography ever really lets me down, but they’re not all amazing, either. This one is incredible. Highly recommended. This book will be well regarded by Plath scholars and fans alike. If you are not deeply interested in the subject you should probably skip it because it is long and detailed and not for you. If you enjoy reading about Plath or have a scholarly interest in her life, yes! This is an incredible, well researched, detailed deep dive. Pure excellence.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Stephanie
  • 2021-01-19

Narration Doesn't Do It Justice

I have noticed many times Audible's propensity for choosing narration voices that might in some way mirror, or at least be supposed to mirror, the subject of biographies, and it is a practice I really wish they would stop. To have this monumental work read by a breathy, girl-ish sounding narrator, is disrespectful to the author's work and minimizes Plath herself. It's very easy to fall into dismissing Plath as an annoying little girl when listening to 45.5 hours of an annoying little voice with numerous mispronunciations. If you can get past the narration, the book is outstanding. I'll be reading the hardcopy to hopefully get the echo of the miscast narrator out of my head.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Sam Q
  • 2020-11-06

Simply brilliant!

A dense, highly researched biography of a poet, a girl, a woman, a mother and a wife struggling for identity, acceptance and literary acknowledgment in the pre-feminist 1950's and 1960's and in countries (even her own) where she did not really ever feel she belonged. The mother-daughter relationship is also dealt with sensitively and honestly. If you did not know much about Sylvia Plath before reading this book, you will feel you actually know her after reading it and it is hard not to get emotionally bound up in her story. A valuable guide to her, the times and the social, academic, publishing and literary culture of the period. A very long book, yes, but I, for one, could not stop reading it. I will definitely read it again.

6 people found this helpful

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  • M. Consol
  • 2021-07-25

An amazing, electric and tragic life

For decades I’ve heard the name of Sylvia Path invoked on the pages of the New York Times Book Review and its podcast, only to wonder who this woman really was. Obviously, a woman of great influence among other writers. When Heather Clark’s bio of Plath was published it was time to finally to resolve this personal mystery.

What an amazing and tragic life. This book is both inspiring and heartbreaking and, despite already knowing how Plath’s life ended, the tension of waiting hundreds of pages for the final event was spellbinding. I also came to know Ted Hughes, her estranged husband, and the most popular British poet at the time, who, like Plath, also suffered from the dark moods of depression, though to a far lesser degree.

Plath’s college years at Smith were so auspicious, as her poetic talent developed and men were draw to this tall, vivacious woman by the dozens. Plath became a prolific dater and learned to resent the sexual freedom afforded to men but denied to women. Eventually it is Ted Hughes who becomes the enduring love of her life, albeit a tempestuous pairing. Hughes’ voracious sexual appetite leads him astray, and Plath’s fury and pursuit of vengeance results in a flurry of her most electric poetry, as well as a novel (The Bell Jar) that still sells about 100,000 copies her year and has sold a total of nearly 4 million copies since its 1963 release.

What an honor it would have been to spend some weeks with Sylvia Plath, but this sprawling and detailed recounting of her life by Heather Clark is the next best thing.

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  • longbeachkjd
  • 2021-02-27

One of the most remarkable biographies ever

This is a remarkable and well researched biography about the total personhood, daughter, woman, scholar, poet, wife and mother who was Sylvia Plath.

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  • Nicole Del Sesto
  • 2021-01-19

Literary Criticism and Biography

Sylvia Plath led a short well-documented life. What I find most interesting about Plath is the way people get obsessed with her. (I am one of them.) There are SO many Plath biographies, and let's face it - people are all working from the same source material.

It makes it really hard to have anything new to say, though this book promised to do that. Ultimately, it did deliver, but it was a long time coming. Mostly, if you've read other Plath biographies, The Bell Jar, Letters Home, and The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath you know 95% of what is in this book. What you may not know exactly, you know peripherally - because nothing changes what happened, only how some of the others documented Plath in their own letters and journals. I'm not sure what I was expecting.

If you only read one book on Plath, this would be a good one. It's comprehensive.

True confession time - I don't "get" poetry. At. All. I try so hard to read and absorb Plath's poems and they mostly go right over my head. (Though I really enjoy listening to her reading her own poems, a bunch of which are available on Spotify. Who new?) This book contained a lot of literary criticism and that is not something I enjoy. To me it's like the pretentious guy in the museum looking at a painting of a red ball and explaining to the crowd "What the artist was trying to say was life on a fixed income is hard." If I don't get it, it's my problem. Don't explain it to me. There was a lot of explaining the poetry.

This book was exceptionally well-researched, and well-written. What it was not, as per usual, was well-edited. There was a lot of repetition. Perhaps you notice that more when you listen vs. read. I feel like there were about 50 mentions to the effect of "and that's when she wrote Lady Lazurus." I know that's not the case, because I also thought she used the word "elegiac" every other word and I searched Kindle and turned out it was only 10.
But really, some critical editing was in order.

Overall, relatively easy to get through in spite of the length, new enough information available and you know, more Sylvia for those who need it. I think I'm well-sated for now.

Hardcover of this book has artwork I understand, which would be cool to have so I'll probably buy it at some point. If I'd been reading the print copy, I can tell you I would have skipped a LOT of it.

Narrator was fine. Early on I was really distracted by what I thought was a speech impediment - I heard her S's like Peter Brady saying "Porkchops and applesauce, swell" but it either got better or I stopped noticing.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-11-22

I am in utter awe. BRILLIANT.

I wept silently many, many times. I am moved, inspired, and deeply grateful to Heather Clark for giving Silvia Plath such a beautiful, devastating biography. Her poems have all taken on a deeper meaning to me. Thank you, thank you. What a gift this was. Read this immediately.

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  • Tammy Fountain
  • 2021-07-25

Read Red Comet

A good, long journey through the life and work of Sylvia Plath. An intimate, detailed accounting of one of our greatest poets.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Suzie
  • 2021-06-14

Never a huge fan of poetry

Found this book so enlightening. Long but never mundane. What an incredible talented woman fighting to be true to herself but yet needing to conform to the manuscript of the times. Now to read her poetry which, I’m sure, will convert me.

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  • Barbara
  • 2021-06-06

Exceptional

I truly enjoyed every bit of this biography which is never boring. The narrator is pleasant and easy to listen to without causing the listener to dose off! I did catch one or two mistakes, but, in a tome like this , I felt overall she did exceptionally well. This biography is well researched, yet, reads like an interesting story. I liked the references to the other poets of the time. The ending of course is the deepest, most heart-rending part. Recommended.

1 person found this helpful