Book Review: Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

April 30, 2013
Article first published as Book Review: Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder on Blogcritics.

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder is a non-fiction book about time mentioned in the title. The book paints a portrait of Ms. Plath during a stressful, eventful and personal emotional summer of her life.

The pub­lisher is giv­ing away one copy of this book –to enter fill out the Raf­fle­copt­ter form at the end of the post.

  • 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062085492

Book Review Pain Parties Work Sylvia Plath in New York Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

My rating for Pain, Parties, Work – 4

Buy this book in paper or electronic format

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder (@elizawinder) is the kind of book which seems to be gaining popularity, a short non-fiction book about a specified time-frame of a person. These books seem to replace the all encompassing biographies.

At this day and age where a somewhat descent, encompassing biography on almost every important, not-so-important and, let’s face(book) it, not-important-at-all people is at one’s fingertips 24/7 these type of short biographical portraits are flourishing. I can certainly understand why, when I ran a restrictive search for “Sylvia Plath biography” on Google I got 6,430 results (417,000 results came back with just a simple search). With that much information at hand a book which highlights a certain period does, especially if one is interested only in that specific subject, sounds enticing.

There seems to be a lot of information about Sylvia Plath this year which marks the 50th anniversary of her untimely death. To be honest, this is the first book I read about, or by, Ms. Plath. I have heard of her before, but her work never sparked my interest. There was something in the description of this book though, that did sound interesting, maybe the locale (NYC), the time period (1950s), or the subject. But what probably made me pick up this book is a variety of reasons, a combination of the ones mentioned previously plus others which I cannot put my finger on at the moment.

When I received the book I thought I had made a mistake just by looking at the cover. A picture in which the color pink (or some variation of it) is predominant, a woman wearing a fancy ruffle dress, long Cinderella gloves, jewelry on her arms, a pearl necklace, diamond earrings and a fancy hairdo sitting face forward on a chair/couch which seems to be made for the sole purpose of acting out a most dramatic and passionate fainting.
Not too attractive for someone who loves to read about World War II, espionage and other “manly” books.

Once I started reading the book all my trepidations went away, this a remarkable story of an amazing woman living out an extraordinary adventure. Ms. Winder did an amazing job researching, including talking with first hand sources (other guest-editors) whose recollections of Ms. Plath are vivid and enchanting. The depressed image I had have of Sylvia Plath is contradictory to the image the author paints, that of flaming red lipstick, posh clothes and high heels.

The book does a great job describing the professional environment of 1950s New York City as well as making the month long adventure come to life. The assertion that the gig of “guest editor” was a defining event in Plant’s life seems to have much merit and essential to understanding her character and writing.

Twenty-year-old Sylvia Plath arrives in New York City with 20 other college aged women to work as guest editors for Mademoiselle’s college issue. This is a prestigious position which, they hope, will get them ready for life in the big city and even bigger world.

The ladies live at the Barbizon Hotel, attend shows, ballets, professional sports and participate in glamorous events.

Buy this book inpaperorelectronicformat


  • Give­away ends: May 7, 2013

  • US/Canada Ship­ping Addresses Only

  • No PO Boxes

  • Win­ners will have 24 hours to write back with their address, oth­er­wise an alter­nate win­ner will be picked

Congratulations: Name as email

TLC Book Tour forPain, Parties, Workby Elizabeth Winder :

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer:I got this book for free fromTLC Book Tours.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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  • CarlApril 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve been a fan of Sylvia Plath for many years and often recommended her book The Bell Jar to my young friends. Thanks for offering a copy of this new book about her, I’d love to win it.

  • RyanApril 30, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    I would desperately love to win a copy of this book, but alas…. Taiwan.

  • AlyceMay 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

    I liked The Bell Jar very much, and was excited to see that you are giving away a copy of this biography.

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book ToursMay 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    What an amazing experience those young women must have had that summer! I admit that I know very little about Ms. Plath, but I’m intrigued.

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  • Laurie CMay 4, 2013 at 7:47 am

    I chuckled at your comment about the cover. Yeah, I think my husband would be dubious, too, if I tried to hand him this book to read! That’s an objection that a lot of female authors have — that the covers the publishers choose are so “womanly” that men think they won’t be interested. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but this sounds really good.

  • AthiraMay 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I have read Plath’s Bell Jar and while I haven’t been fascinated by her other works, I’ve been particularly interested in her life. I need to check this book out – like you said, the picture the author paints of Plath is wildly different from the portrait her Bell Jar gave me.

  • Patti SmithMay 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    “The depressed image I had have of Sylvia Plath is con­tra­dic­tory to the image the author paints, that of flam­ing red lip­stick, posh clothes and high heels.”
    I think this part of Winder’s story is what makes this book…it’s time for a new perspective on the depressed woman writer locked up in her room. Enjoyed your review 🙂 I can only imagine the look on my husband’s face if I was to hand him this book and tell him to read it 🙂

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