Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Historical Fiction: Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill
Source: Random Buzzers
Read: as part of the pre-college TBR cleanout
Reading time: two days
From GoodReads: Your Own, Sylvia draws on Plath’s writing and extensive nonfiction sources, chronicling Hemphill’s interpretation of Plath’s life from infancy to her death by suicide at age 30. The poems are arranged chronologically and each conveys an experience in Plath’s life told via the voice and perspective of family members, friends, doctors, fellow writers, etc.—as interpreted by Hemphill. Each poem is accompanied by an addendum that further explains the factual circumstances of that poem’s subject. The book also includes an Author’s Note, some photos, a section describing the source material for each poem, and suggestions for further reading.
My review: It took me a little while to get used to the style of Your Own, Sylvia, especially how every section of verse is accompanied by a less lyrical prose addendum explaining some of the biographical background. Unlike most other verse novels I've read, I did not find this one particularly engaging, lyrical, or emotionally engrossing. The best part, to me, covered Sylvia's college years as she began to slip into depression and experience her first suicide attempt. Past this, however, the insights into her psyche and emotions seemed more topical. I think it would also have been nice if certain parts of the novel had been accompanied by some of Plath's own poems reflecting upon the events being described, because the situation in which Hemphill is writing is one of the rare times where the poet's own works, primary source material from her family and peers, and the author's interpretations of these can be combined into a continuous chronological narrative. This biographical novel was interesting for its details on Sylvia Plath's life, but it lacked the emotional depth that I expected and that would have turned it into a thoroughly engrossing read.