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.