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Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1 - 1932-1955

Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1


By Carl Rollyson
Hardcover : 9781496835000, 400 pages, 46 b&w illustrations, August 2023

A fascinating investigation into the life and art of one of America’s greatest poets


Since Sylvia Plath’s death in 1963, she has become the subject of a constant stream of books, biographies, and articles. She has been hailed as a groundbreaking poet for her starkly beautiful poems in Ariel and as a brilliant forerunner of the feminist coming-of-age novel in her semiautobiographical The Bell Jar. Each new biography has offered insight and sources with which to measure Plath’s life and influence. Sylvia Plath Day by Day, a two-volume series, offers a distillation of this data without the inherent bias of a narrative.

Volume 1 commences with Plath’s birth in Boston in 1932, records her response to her elementary and high school years, her entry into Smith College, and her breakdown and suicide attempt, and ends on February 14, 1955, the day she wrote to Ruth Cohen, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, to accept admission as an “affiliated student at Newnham College to read for the English Tripos.”

Sylvia Plath Day by Day is for readers of all kinds with a wide variety of interests in the woman and her work. The entries are suitable for dipping into and can be read in a minute or an hour. Ranging over several sources, including Plath’s diaries, journals, letters, stories, and other prose and poetry—including new material and archived material rarely seen by readers—a fresh kaleidoscopic view of the writer emerges.


"The details in Rollyson’s Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1: 1932–1955 are a dream come true for the reader, fan, and scholar of Sylvia Plath. The seeds of so much of her creative writing are present, but Rollyson deftly does not foreshadow how events impact Plath’s life and when she transforms experiences from life to art. He lets each moment stand on its own importance."

- Peter K. Steinberg, coeditor of The Letters of Sylvia Plath

"Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1: 1932–1955 is a must-have book for any reader interested in Plath. Detailed yet highly readable, it paints a portrait of a young woman who would become, as will be chronicled in volume 2, one of the seminal authors in the twentieth century."

- Paul Alexander, author of Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath

"Sylvia Plath Day by Day, Volume 1: 1932–1955 fills the lacunae of existing biographies and uncovers new insights into its subject, as when Plath writes about her experiences at Smith, hearing ‘nasty little tag ends of conversation directed at you and around you, meant for you, to strangle you on the invisible noose of insinuation.’ Or her months in New York at Mademoiselle, which grow less mysterious here. Again, Carl Rollyson has provided us with an indispensable book on Sylvia Plath."

- Linda Wagner-Martin, author of Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life as well as biographies of Gertrude Stein, Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and others