Often using vivid and compelling language, Plath addresses many topics in her letters — from politics and literature to her education and love life to her own unbridled literary ambitions and her plans to achieve them. The sheer quantity of the letters — Volume 1 runs to more than 1,300 pages — is as impressive as their quality ... Engaging and revealing, The Letters of Sylvia Plath offers a captivating look into the life and inner thinking of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
Frieda Hughes, the couple’s daughter and only surviving child, begins the book of letters with a spectacularly defensive foreword — a tribute less to Plath than to Hughes...There is the effect, slightly comic and horrifying, of the daughter presiding over the vow renewal ceremony for the ghosts of her parents ... to speak of Plath’s letters is to speak of her relationship with Aurelia, to whom she wrote twice a day at times — long letters that swarmed to fill every inch of space on the page and trailed onto the envelopes. This was, no doubt, lovely for her mother (and her biographers), but it can be rough going for even the committed Plathophile ... The achievement of this avalanche of letters — 1,300 pages and counting — is that it disabuses everyone of the notion that Plath wasn’t aware of her contradictions or in (some) control of them. She referenced her two selves every time she went from blonde to brunette. Her honors thesis was, in part, on Dostoevsky’s The Double, after all, in which a self splits, and one kills the other. 'How can you be so many women to so many people,' she once wrote in her journal, 'oh you strange girl?'
The assuredness of Plath’s late poetry, written from about 1961 up to her death, was a thing that she worked very hard to achieve. Her letters, on the other hand, are undisciplined and effusive, running on at length … The belief among many of Plath’s devotees seems to be that if we can get clear of other people’s fingerprints on her texts, allowing Plath to ‘fully narrate her own autobiography,’ as the editors here describe it, we will at last solve the riddle of her. The extremities of her poetry will balance against the circumstances of her life; the latter will equal the former. But her griefs were ordinary; it is what she did with them that wasn’t.