The It-Doesn’t Matter Suit and other stories by Sylvia Plath

Due to popular demand (from my mother) I am resurrecting my well-intentioned but slightly dormant ‘Random Book of The Week’ weekly post. In these posts I will be rooting around my shelves for books read long ago which maybe do not fit into easy themes or which I just want to share with you because they are bit peculiar for some reason or another. Here are a few earlier examples of aforementioned peculiarity.

First up, a children’s book written by Sylvia Plath. ‘WHAT?’ I hear you cry, as you spit out your tea or feel a little twinge as the shock of such a statement prompts a little mini-wee. Yes, this does exist, and I don’t doubt that you are surprised. Most of us are aware of the bleaker side of The Plath Legend – in fact, as a book-obsessed but slightly morbid 15 year old I read the excellent Bitter Fame biography by Anne Stevenson (check out the ancient London Review of Books review here ) before I’d read many of her poems. One of the most poignant images of this sad tale is that of 30 year-old Plath carefully sealing the rooms between her and her sleeping children with wet towels and cloths before killing herself in February 1963. Oh we’re all cheer here at Brontë’s Page Turners, we really bloody are.

However, after years of delving into Plath and trying to understand what the hell is going on in the poems that tackle her depression  (psst you don’t always have to understand. The language is beautiful and astounding by itself), the factor that never ceases to amaze me is the stark contrast of tone in her writing for children. In this collection of two short stories and a poem, we have the excitement of a young boy getting the perfect suit and feeling he can take on the world, the delightful shenanigans of kitchen pixies, and some spectacularly-imagined children’s beds including the snack bed ‘where you need no shillings, just a finger to stick in…and out come cold cakes and chicken.’ The latter may be a precursor to the elusive The Bed Book, a now out of print series of fanciful poems about different kinds of beds, written by Plath for her children and illustrated by every 80s child’s favourite Quentin Blake.  Oh how I long for a copy. Hint.

I like this book as it challenges the one-dimensional image of a woman dominated by her depression. Yes, sometimes, Sylvia Plath is suitable for young children and can cheer up those of us struggling with the adulting. Who would have thunk it.

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Plath and her children Frieda and Nick. Nick committed suicide in 2009 at the age of 47.
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13 Comments Add yours

  1. Wow! I never knew she wrote children’s book! Thank you for telling me 🙂 I must try to get my hands on this one. I really appreciate what you’ve said about being open to seeing Plath (or anyone actually!) from a dimension other than what they are most known for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you can get this one in a lot of shops now – certainly big chains will order it in, and I think I got mine from ebay! Enjoy!

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    2. Ps and thank you for your last point. I like to think, having read her work for children, that underneath it all she could in some moments access a gloriously childlike and happy side. I guess all of her work is linked by her phenomenal imagination.

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  2. This did indeed make me go What?, Sylvia Plath wrote a children’s book? (I guess I’m predictable), and then it made me very happy, because it does sound wonderfully imaginative and I would love to read some “lighter” Plath (not that I don’t love the rest of her writing, but I’m having trouble picturing her style in anything light and happy, which probably shows how easily we order authors (and people) in one genre)

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    1. It is phenomenal reading this alongside some of her poems. Almost incongruous – but then us humans always are!

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  3. Priya says:

    I really need to get my hands on this one! It is a wonderful thing kids can do to a person . . . I personally know people who are clinically depressed but derive great energy from being around children. And about that last photograph of Sylvia with her children – here’s a poem she wrote that seems to be about her experience when she was pregnant with Nick, and which now seems poignant in hindsight. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/49006

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    1. Hello! Goodness I love the poems for her children. ‘You’re’ is my favourite: ‘love set you going like a fat gold watch’. The language is so mesmerising.

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  4. Priya says:

    Reblogged this on The Crooked Pencil and commented:
    A children’s book by Sylvia Plath? Who’d have thought! But as much as a paradox that it sounds, I’m intrigued by this review and can’t wait to get a copy for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for the re-blog Priya! I’m glad you liked the review and hope you enjoy the book too! Bronte

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sarah G. says:

    I need to find a copy of this. I had no idea! Plath, really? You just shattered my understanding of this woman… which wasn’t a strong understanding to begin with. The title had me at “It-Doesn’t-Matter”, but… holy cow, Plath + Children’s book…. what? =)

    I’m in love with your blog already, fellow book lover. Happy reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you fellow book lover for those words. And yes, it still gets me every time that SYLVIA PLATH WROTE A BOOK FOR CHILDREN Y’ALL!!!

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  6. B says:

    No way! What an amazing discovery. I’m definitely intrigued by this book now! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My pleasure! I hope you find a copy (mine was from ebay) and enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

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