Winner of the 2003 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize
Winner of a 2005 Prix des Lectrices de Elle
Published in 14 languages
“She is no daughter, no mother, no wife. She is herself, held by nothing under the pure blue dome of sky, attended by granite and sheep and curious ponies, trilling warblers drunk on sloes in the bushes. It is her birthday. She is thirty years old. She is sitting at her desk, her toes buried in the red wool plush of an Oriental rug, a cup of hot black coffee smoking at her wrist. Daylight rises like a curtain beyond the curtains of her study. Her children sigh in their sleep, stir under their blankets, in the room beyond the wall. A purple dawn, a toppled graveyard, a vision she bows her head before. Blue cornflowers, red poppies mouth her name, cascade across the stage at her feet.”
–from Chapter 15, “Ariel”
Wintering is the story of a woman forging a new life for herself after her marriage has foundered. She shuts up her beloved rural Devonshire house and makes a home for her two young children in London, elated at completing the collection of poems she foresees will make her name. It is also the story of a woman struggling to maintain her mental equilibrium, to absorb the pain of her husband’s betrayal, and to resist her mother’s engulfing love. It is the story of Sylvia Plath.
“Fiction, guided by the educated imagination, can lead where mere chronicle dare not venture,” wrote Peter Davison, friend and editor of Plath and editor of the best-known biography of the poet, Anne Stevenson’s Bitter Fame. “Kate Moses knows everything on record about Sylvia Plath, but her novelist imagination takes us into those crevices of Plath’s mind where no one else has ever penetrated. Her novel evokes the special qualities of the wife, the mother, the poet, the woman whose intensity of experience somehow overwhelmed her senses, her sanity, but never her language. No other version of those mysterious last months before Sylvia Plath’s suicide goes so far to restore the life of the poet, the woman, whom I knew.”
In this deeply felt novel, Kate Moses recreates Sylvia Plath’s last months, weaving in the story of her life before she met Ted Hughes, through to the disintegration of their marriage and the burst of creativity this triggered. It is inspired by Plath’s original ordering and selection of poems in Ariel, a mythic narrative of defiant survival quite different from the chronological version edited by Hughes after her death. At Wintering’s heart, though, lie the two weeks in December 1962 when Plath finds herself alone and grief-stricken, despite all her determined hope.
With exceptional empathy, unsparing insight and lyrical grace, Moses captures Plath’s poignant, untenable, and courageous struggle to confront not only her future as a woman, an artist, and a mother, but the unbanished demons of her past. An internationally acclaimed, emotionally riveting novel about artistry, marriage, motherhood, and self-understanding, Wintering marks the arrival of a powerful and original voice on the American literary scene.