Not being a fan of fictionalizations of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, I entered it with perhaps an unfair bias, which I must be upfront about. And ultimately, was disappointed with this simple book. Or, maybe I should say that I was satisfied that in reading it, Your Story, My Story lived up to my expectations of being a bad book.
Your Story, My Story is essentially just a summarizing and regurgitation of Hughes' Birthday Letters, and a few other texts. It is nowhere near as good or as authentic as the originals it basically plagiarizes. And it reminds me yet again that the REAL story of lives and experiences of Plath and Hughes, and the REAL poetry they wrote, is simply just far more interesting than the imagination Palmen--and others--attempt to utilize. As a result I re-read Birthday Letters as a way, if you can believe it, to cleanse myself.
Not sure if this is a writer, a translator, or an editor issue, or all three, but the constancy of the Hughes character referring to his wife as "my bride" was archaic. I am not sure why--and I do not really care what the reason is--the author does not refer to the "wife/bride" as "Sylvia". There are just four instances in the text of the "novel" where Plath is mentioned by name. And fewer than that for "Ted". There is no doubt who the male and female lead characters are supposed to be; so many other actual people are named and actual occurrences are explicitly identified. The references to "my bride" shift on page 127, largely, to "my wife". This was supremely annoying.
Some other problems highlight that the research for this book could have been better.
On page 47, Palmen writes that Wilbury Crockett was her teacher at Smith. Wrong. He was in Wellesley.
On pages 23, 54, 76, etc. Palmen writes that Plath typing on her Hermes typewriter. Wrong. She used an Olivetti at this time and got the Hermes in 1959, probably around the time she went to Yaddo.
On page 70, Palmen writes that the Ted Hughes character says his writing class is in Boston. Wrong. It was in Amherst. This is one of the logical things. Think! Would someone travel from Northampton to teach in Boston in an era before major highways?
On page 75, Palmen writes that they lived on the 5th floor at 9 Willow Street. Wrong. It was the 6th floor.
On page 93, Palmen writes that Yellowstone National Park is in Montana? Wrong. It is in Wyoming. (Well, it spills a bit--barely a fringe of it--into Montana and Idaho, but Plath and Hughes were clearly and squarely in Wyoming.)
On page 170, Palmen writes that the Ted Hughes character says that in February 1963 he returned with Susan to 18 Rugby Street and that it was the first time he'd been there since he got married. Wrong. They spent some time there in January 1960 and Palmen he writes about that.
This book was printed in late 2020 or in early 2021. The Author's Note is very out of date as it mentions that Ted Hughes' trunk will be opened by Emory in 2023. Wrong. In 2018, Julie Goodspeed-Chadwick and I revealed that it was opened many years ago. It also says that Hughes "donated" his papers to Emory. Wrong. He sold them.
There is more but I will stop as I think I have made my point.
I made light pencil notes here and there but I'd very much like to jettison this book from my house. If someone wants it, please let me know. Would prefer US only. If there is no interest with a week, then I will ensconce it---like an earthenware head into a willow tree--in one of those little free libraries that are around about.
All links accessed 6 March 2020.