The best way to describe this book is: The Bell Jar, but non-fiction. Pain, Parties, Work tells the story of Sylvia Plath during the month of June, 1953 and her internship at Mademoiselle magazine in New York City. That month in NYC was exciting, but with a manic foreboding.
This book bugged me, its set-up was extremely tangential. We’d randomly be talking about someone Plath dated once or twice, then jump backward to her feelings about her mother, then forward again to someone vaguely famous that walked by Plath and the other girls once on the street. It didn’t make any sense. Winder also couldn’t seem to decide what format to go with. For example, there was a “Dictionary of Adolescence” chapter that just listed everyday things and throughout the book, there were boxes of asides relating to crew cuts, or oysters, or the fact that Sylvia got nylons for Christmas one time. Why do we care?! Winder didn’t seem to actually know much about Plath, but was trying to piece together a book that would sell. Chapters were full of information about things that Plath loved, but without any credibility. In the afterward, she did include the names of people she had interviewed, but didn’t cite anything within the text of the book. I would have liked some footnotes.
The one thing that I truly did love about this book was that it gave personal insights into Plath’s life. In most ways, she was just a regular girl and in a way I think that adds something to her. She could be anyone, which is why The Bell Jar resonates with so many young girls: they can identify with Esther and thus Plath herself. All in all, this book was a let-down; don’t waste your time – just go read The Bell Jar again.
P.S. Why that cover image? It’s lovely, I’ll admit, but a biography (especially a biography of someone who loved being photographed) should have an image of the subject on the cover, not some random woman.