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PUBLICATION DATE: June 18, 2001
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The Ballad of Sylvia and Ted
By (author) Emma Tennant
This is a fictional re-creation of the marriage and separation of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. From the start, poetry was the couple’s trysting-place and battleground. Sylvia read Ted’s verse before she met him, confronting the handsome young poet with his own words at their first encounter one cold Cambridge night. In intensely vivid prose, Emma Tennant takes us beyond the familiar outlines of the pair’s legend, imbuing their story with the heightened symbolism of an epic drama. From the scarlet lipstick and head-band Sylvia wore on the night they first met, to the yards of red corduroy curtains left unfinished at her death, Tennant constructs a ballad from the unforgettable images that tap into our very nerve endings. As Sylvia and Ted struggle to create both life and art, their duet becomes a duel – creating a powerful vortex of sensation and passion that draws everyone into its path, including Sylvia’s darkly beautiful rival, Assia Wevill.Through imaginative fiction, The Ballad of Sylvia and Ted vividly evokes the social and literary circles in which Plath and Hughes travelled, even as it animates the three talented yet tortured people whose tragic tale surely deserves its place as one of the twentieth century’s most famous literary love stories.
Emma Tennant was born in London and spent much of her childhood at the family home in Scotland. Her most recent books are Strangers: A Family Romance (1998), Girlitude: A Memoir of the ’50s and ’60s (1999) and Burnt Diaries (1999), an account of Emma’s editorship of a literary magazine in the 1970s. Emma Tennant is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an honorary D. Lit. from the University of Aberdeen in 1996.