Cover image for Wintering : a novel of Sylvia Plath
Wintering : a novel of Sylvia Plath
Moses, Kate.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 292 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



This is the story of a woman forging a new life for herself after her marriage has foundered, shutting up her beloved Devonshire house and making a home for her two young children in London, elated at completing the collection of poems she foresees will make her name. It is also the story of a woman struggling to maintain her mental equilibrium, to absorb the pain of her husband's betrayal and to resist her mother's engulfing love. It is the story of Sylvia Plath.

In this deeply felt novel, Kate Moses recreates Sylvia Plath's last months, weaving in the background of her life before she met Ted Hughes through to the disintegration of their relationship and the burst of creativity this triggered. It is inspired by Plath's original ordering and selection of the poems in Ariel, which begins with the word 'love' and ends with 'spring,' a mythic narrative of defiant survival quite different from the chronological version edited by Hughes. At Wintering'sheart, though, lie the two weeks in December when Plath finds herself still alone and grief-stricken, despite all her determined hope. With exceptional empathy and lyrical grace, Moses captures her poignant, untenable and courageous struggle to confront not only her future as a woman, an artist and a mother, but the unbanished demons of her past.

Author Notes

Kate Moses was born in San Francisco in 1962 to a British father and an American mother, and grew up in various parts of the United States before returning to California to attend college. She subsequently worked as an editor in publishing and as literary director at San Francisco's Intersection for the Arts. In 1997 she became one of the two founding editors of's Mothers Who Think Web site

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Suffering artists are the sainted martyrs of our times, and novelists love to speculate about iconic figures such as painter Frida Kahlo and poet Sylvia Plath. Already the subject of Emma Tennant's novel Sylvia and Ted (2001), Plath has now inspired first-time novelist Moses, who presents an exquisite interpretation of the final months in the brilliant but angst-riven poet's short life, focusing particularly on the collapse of her marriage to poet Ted Hughes. Moses is so fluent in Plath's swordlike language and mythic imagery, and so attuned to the dire complications of a love match between two intense poets, she writes with a cleansing purity, free of judgment and rich in intuition. In her finest passages, she reanimates the all-too-quickly defiled Eden the two poets attempted to create at Court Green, Plath's feverish and indelible poetic output, and her manic domestic industry, her muscular mothering, gardening, cooking, beekeeping, painting, and sewing. Plath held herself to impossibly high standards, and Moses traces the source of Plath's unsustainable drive and sensitivity and their tragic consequences with empathic artistry. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

This exceptional first novel, shot through with a fierce poetic luminosity that almost matches that of Moses's much-written-about subject, covers the last few months of the poet's life as she cares for her sick children in the middle of a brutal London winter, struggling to write her last poems and recover from the defection of husband Ted Hughes. Moses is frank, in a long afterword, about her sources-which include Plath's letters and journals-and about what she has made up or merely surmised. But the key question is whether the book succeeds as a compelling piece of fiction, and the answer is that it does, triumphantly. Moses moves deftly back and forth in time, from the couple's last months in their beloved but moldering Devonshire hideaway through Plath's first suspicions of Hughes's infidelities to her arrival in London. Moses catches the quality of English life, particularly its austere inconveniences and its moody weather, with remarkable fluency, and her habitation of Plath's body and mind feels complete. At the same time, she offers scenes that show how awkward and bloody minded the poet could sometimes be. It is not a sentimental book, but rather one that evokes Plath's fierce joy in words and images and her huge motherly courage in the face of crippling adversity, with lacerating episodes like the one in which she makes a desperate call from a phone box in the rain while her children peer in at her uncomprehendingly. In the end one wonders not how Plath came to kill herself but how she survived so long. This beautifully written novel may offend literary purists, but most readers will find it moving almost beyond words. (Feb. 11) Forecast: Because of its ever-fascinating subject, expect plenty of review attention. Plath remains a deeply evocative figure as well as a feminist icon, and the book can certainly be hand-sold to reading groups. Moses is also the editor of a nonfiction book on motherhood, Mothers Who Think. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Since Plath's suicide in 1963, much of her life has been kept under lock and key by her late husband, poet Ted Hughes, and his family. Consequently, biographical treatments have been plentiful but have lacked a clear vision of their subject, reducing Plath to a mere specter. Now this accomplished and richly textured first novel gives Plath back much of her humanity, using the final and most productive months of her life as template. During this time, Plath was struggling psychologically while trying to raise two children in the midst of her husband's infidelities. The chapters move about in time and are structured around the titles and themes of Plath's posthumous masterpiece, "Ariel." Using her poetic vision, Moses evokes a powerful portrait that is typically missing from other works and excels when describing Plath's day-to-day struggles and triumphs. The only thing lacking is a better understanding of Plath's creative process. Nevertheless, this is an emotionally riveting work. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.-David Hellman, San Francisco State Univ. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

1 "Morning Song"p. 1
2 "The Couriers"p. 7
3 "The Rabbit Catcher"p. 24
4 "Thalidomide"p. 34
5 "The Applicant"p. 40
6 "Barren Woman"p. 48
7 "Lady Lazarus"p. 64
8 "Tulips"p. 83
9 "A Secret"p. 85
10 "The Jailor"p. 91
11 "Cut"p. 104
12 "Elm"p. 107
13 "The Night Dances"p. 116
14 "The Detective"p. 123
15 "Ariel"p. 129
16 "Death & Co."p. 142
17 "Magi"p. 152
18 "Lesbos"p. 158
19 "The Other"p. 164
20 "Stopped Dead"p. 169
21 "Poppies in October"p. 172
22 "The Courage of Shutting-Up"p. 174
23 "Nick and the Candlestick"p. 180
24 "Berck-Plage"p. 183
25 "Gulliver"p. 190
26 "Getting There"p. 194
27 "Medusa"p. 201
28 "Purdah"p. 213
29 "The Moon and the Yew Tree"p. 219
30 "A Birthday Present"p. 227
31 "Letter in November"p. 233
32 "Amnesiac"p. 237
33 "The Rival"p. 242
34 "Daddy"p. 248
35 "You're"p. 255
36 "Fever 103[degree]"p. 258
37 "The Bee Meeting"p. 261
38 "The Arrival of the Bee Box"p. 265
39 "Stings"p. 273
40 "The Swarm"p. 275
41 "Wintering"p. 280
Postscriptp. 284
Author's Notep. 285
Acknowledgments and Permissionsp. 289