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This audiobook review provides an in-depth analysis of Diane Middlebrook’s “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage.” The audiobook delves into the complex and tumultuous relationship between two famous poets, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and offers a unique insight into their marriage.

The audiobook explores their lives, works, and the impact their marriage had on their artistic creations. Diane Middlebrook skillfully weaves together their story, providing a complex and nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play.

If you’re a fan of Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath’s work, or are simply interested in learning more about one of the most iconic literary relationships of the 20th century, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” is a must-listen.

Key Takeaways:

  • The audiobook “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” provides a detailed exploration of the relationship between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.
  • The audiobook offers a unique perspective on their lives, works, and how their marriage influenced their artistic creations.
  • If you’re a fan of Ted Hughes or Sylvia Plath’s work, or are interested in exploring the complexities of their relationship, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” is a must-listen.
  • Diane Middlebrook’s audiobook provides a nuanced and thought-provoking insight into one of the most iconic literary couples of the 20th century.

Introduction to “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage”

Diane Middlebrook’s book, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage,” offers a compelling insight into the complex and tumultuous relationship of two of the most renowned poets of the 20th century, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

In this section, we introduce the background of Hughes and Plath, a necessary contextualization for the exploration of their relationship in the following sections. Ted Hughes, a prominent poet known for his unique style and evocative imagery, was born in England in 1930. Sylvia Plath, a rising literary star and a poetic genius, was born in Boston in 1932.

Despite the geographical and cultural differences, their paths eventually crossed, leading to a passionate and challenging relationship that would shape their individual works and the literary landscape for decades to come.

The image above showcases the two poets together, providing a visual representation of the complex relationship that Middlebrook’s book explores.

Ted Hughes: A Prominent Poet

Ted Hughes was one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1930, he was educated at Cambridge University, where he met his future wife, Sylvia Plath. Hughes was appointed Poet Laureate in 1984, a position he held until his death in 1998.

Hughes’ work is marked by its rich imagery, powerful language and deep connection to the natural world. His early collections, such as The Hawk in the Rain and Lupercal, received critical acclaim, establishing him as a leading voice of the post-World War II generation.

In addition to his poetry, Hughes was also known for his work as a children’s author, with titles like The Iron Man and How the Whale Became becoming beloved classics. His ability to capture the imaginations of young readers was matched only by his reputation as a literary giant.

“Hughes’ work is marked by its raw power, stunning imagery and unwavering intensity.”

The Legacy of Ted Hughes

Today, Ted Hughes is widely regarded as one of the most important poets of his generation. His work has continued to captivate readers and inspire new generations of writers, with his influence felt across the literary landscape. Despite controversy surrounding his personal life, Hughes’ towering artistic contributions continue to endure.

Sylvia Plath: A Poetic Genius

In the world of poetry, Sylvia Plath is a name that needs no introduction. Born in 1932, Plath’s life and work have had a profound impact on the literary world, cementing her status as a poetic icon. Her journals, letters, and most notably, her poetry, provide a unique insight into her mind and creative process.

Plath’s work is quick-witted, evocative, and raw. The confessional style of her poetry delves into the complexities of human experience with searing honesty and intensity. Her poetry often tackles topics such as womanhood, mental illness, and death, themes that were ahead of their time. The honesty and power of Plath’s work have made her a timeless figure in literature.

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”

Plath’s poetic voice was unmistakable, characterized by her obsessive attention to detail, striking imagery, and personal touch. Her work found a resonance with readers far beyond her immediate literary community, and her impact has only grown with time.

Notably, Plath’s life and work were cut tragically short with her death by suicide in 1963, leaving behind a legacy both in poetry and its intersection with mental health. Her work and life have been the subject of intense study and interpretation, with a growing appreciation for the breadth and depth of her contribution to the poetic canon.

The Meeting and Early Years of Hughes and Plath

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s love story began while they were both studying English at the University of Cambridge. In 1956, they met at a party and sparks flew between them. According to Hughes, it was love at first sight. They fell deeply in love, and their shared passion for poetry and literature helped them connect on a deeper level. (meeting)

After dating for a year, they decided to get married. They tied the knot in a private ceremony in London in June 1956. This marked the beginning of their tumultuous marriage that would be marked by both creative collaboration and bitter rivalry. (early years)

Despite their love and passionate connection, their early years together were not without conflict. They struggled to balance their personal and creative lives, with both of them pursuing their own writing career while also trying to support each other. (early years)

The early years of their marriage were characterized by a sense of excitement and possibility. They both graduated from Cambridge, and in the years that followed, Plath went on to publish her first collection of poetry, while Hughes found success with his own collections. They were establishing themselves as prominent poets in the literary world, and their marriage only added to their mystique. (early years, Hughes and Plath)

The Marriage of Hughes and Plath

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s marriage was marked by passion, creativity, and tumultuous ups and downs. Despite the challenges they faced, their relationship was a vital source of inspiration for both poets and significantly influenced their work. It is in this regard that Diane Middlebrook’s book, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage,” offers a comprehensive and valuable exploration into their marriage.

Hughes and Plath’s marriage was a complex balance of shared artistic aspirations, creative collaboration, and personal struggles. In some ways, the intensity of their love and attachment to one another can be seen in their creative output, which was often intertwined and fuelled by their deep connection.

At the same time, there were numerous obstacles, including infidelity, betrayal, and the pressure to balance personal and professional lives. Tragically, Sylvia Plath’s mental health struggles would culminate in her untimely death, leaving behind a legacy that continues to captivate readers and scholars alike.

Despite the turmoil and ultimate tragedy, Hughes and Plath’s marriage remains a fascinating and significant part of their artistic legacy. Middlebrook’s exploration of this marriage sheds essential light on the complexities and nuances of their partnership, offering valuable insights into the personal and creative dynamics at play.

Creative Collaboration and Rivalry

One of the most fascinating aspects of the relationship between Hughes and Plath was their creative collaboration. As two of the most prominent poets of their time, they shared a passion for language and literature that fueled their respective crafts. They often shared their work with each other, providing feedback and inspiration.

However, their shared pursuit of artistic excellence also created a rivalry that added complexity to their dynamic. They pushed each other to new heights, but also had to grapple with jealousy and competition.

“And that’s the way it ought to be between poets, and probably between all creative artists … You have to respect the other person’s work and give it full attention if you expect the same regard for your own.” – Ted Hughes on his collaborative relationship with Sylvia Plath

Creative Collaboration and Rivalry

Infidelity and Betrayal

Despite the deep love between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, their marriage was marred by infidelity and betrayal. Hughes’ affairs with other women and Plath’s struggles with mental illness created a complex and tumultuous dynamic that heavily influenced their relationship and artistic creations.

One of the most infamous examples of Hughes’ infidelity was his affair with Assia Wevill, a close friend of Plath’s. The affair began while Plath was still alive and ended tragically with Wevill’s suicide, echoing Plath’s own tragic death.

These betrayals had a profound impact on both Hughes and Plath’s artistic endeavors. In her later works, Plath drew heavily on the pain and suffering she experienced in her marriage, including the infidelities she endured. Similarly, Hughes’ own poetry is marked by the intense emotions and complexities of his relationship with Plath.

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

-Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters

Sylvia Plath’s Tragic Death and Its Aftermath

On February 11, 1963, Sylvia Plath took her own life at the age of 30, leaving behind two young children, a remarkable body of work, and a controversial legacy. The news of her death sent shockwaves throughout the literary world, with many mourning the loss of an extraordinary talent and a woman who struggled to find her place in a male-dominated society. Plath’s final poems, collected in “Ariel,” were published posthumously in 1965 and garnered critical acclaim for their raw power and unrestrained emotion.

Plath’s tragic death also had a profound impact on Ted Hughes, who was blamed by some for her suicide. The circumstances surrounding their marriage and separation became the subject of intense scrutiny, with many viewing Hughes as a villain who drove Plath to her death. This narrative persisted for decades, overshadowing the complexities of their relationship and the dynamic between two brilliant poets who were both struggling with personal demons.

“But whatever it was, she had it and lost it, and the essential thing is gone… I will never have such a sense of her again.” – Ted Hughes on Sylvia Plath’s death.

Ted Hughes himself was haunted by Plath’s death and struggled to come to terms with the loss of his ex-wife. He went on to become one of the most celebrated poets of his generation, winning many awards and accolades for his work, but his personal life remained fraught with controversy and tragedy.

Sylvia Plath's Tragic Death

The Controversial Legacy of Sylvia Plath

The aftermath of Sylvia Plath’s death was marked by deep controversy and conflicting narratives. Some viewed her as a feminist icon and a martyr who was crushed by the oppressive forces of patriarchy, while others saw her as a troubled woman who was consumed by her own demons and the toxic relationship with her husband.

Plath’s work continues to be the subject of intense analysis and interpretation, with many readers finding meaning and relevance in her poems and novels. Her confessional style and unflinching honesty have resonated with audiences for decades, inspiring countless writers to explore their own personal struggles and the complexities of the human experience.

Legacy and Interpretations

The legacy of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath endures to this day, with their passionate and tumultuous relationship and works continuing to capture audiences around the world.

One of the most intriguing aspects of their story is the variety of interpretations it has inspired. Many literary critics have analyzed the relationship between Hughes and Plath as a reflection of wider societal issues, such as gender dynamics and power imbalances.

Additionally, there have been numerous debates and controversies surrounding the legacy of both poets. Some have questioned the extent of Hughes’ involvement in Plath’s suicide, while others have critiqued the way Plath’s mental health struggles have been depicted in the media.

“The event of Sylvia Plath’s death separated [Ted Hughes and her] literary legacies irrevocably.”

Regardless of the opinions and controversies, there is no denying the impact that Hughes and Plath have had on the literary world. Their writings continue to be studied, analyzed, and celebrated, inspiring new generations of poets and writers.

Interpretations of Hughes and Plath’s Works

The works of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath have been widely interpreted and analyzed by literary scholars and enthusiasts.

Hughes’ Works Plath’s Works
The Hawk in the Rain The Colossus
Crow Ariel
Tales from Ovid The Bell Jar

The poetry of Ted Hughes often explores the relationship between humans and the natural world, while Sylvia Plath’s works are known for their intense personal and emotional themes.

While there are many different interpretations of their works, what is clear is that Hughes and Plath’s writings continue to captivate and inspire readers around the world.

Analysis of “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” Audiobook

Diane Middlebrook’s audiobook, “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage,” offers a rich portrayal of the intricate and passionate relationship between Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. This section provides an in-depth analysis of the audiobook, highlighting its strengths, weaknesses, and overall impact.


One of the strengths of the audiobook is Middlebrook’s detailed research and nuanced depiction of Hughes and Plath’s marriage. She presents a multifaceted exploration of their relationship, delving into the layers of emotion, creativity, and personal struggles that defined their lives. Additionally, Middlebrook’s writing style is engaging and accessible, making the audiobook both informative and entertaining.


Although the audiobook provides a comprehensive analysis of Hughes and Plath’s relationship, some of the biographical details may be repetitive for those already familiar with their story. In addition, while Middlebrook portrays the complexities of Hughes and Plath’s marriage, there are moments where her interpretations leave room for further analysis and scrutiny.

Overall Impact

“Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” offers a valuable contribution to the study of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, providing a detailed and thought-provoking analysis of their relationship. The audiobook is a compelling exploration of love, artistry, and the intersection of personal and professional lives. Overall, it is a must-listen for those interested in understanding the complexities of this iconic couple.

“Middlebrook’s writing style is engaging and accessible, making the audiobook both informative and entertaining.”


“Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” is a captivating and informative audiobook that provides a unique glimpse into the complex relationship between two renowned poets. Diane Middlebrook’s deep exploration of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath’s marriage offers valuable insights into the impact that personal relationships can have on artistic endeavors and the lasting legacy that can result.

Through detailed analysis of their works and relationship, Middlebrook paints a vivid picture of the joys and challenges that Hughes and Plath faced, both personally and professionally. The audiobook provides a comprehensive understanding of their dynamic, including the creative collaboration and rivalry that fueled their passion for poetry, as well as the infidelity and betrayal that ultimately contributed to their tragic end.

The legacy of Hughes and Plath continues to captivate audiences today, and “Her Husband: Hughes and Plath–A Marriage” offers a thought-provoking exploration of their story. The audiobook is a must-listen for anyone interested in the complexities of love, artistry, and the profound impact of relationships on creative pursuits.

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