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Review: Pain, Parties, Work

July 5, 2013

Pain, Parties, WorkIn 1953, Sylvia Plath was one of twenty young women chosen to be guest editors for Mademoiselle‘s collegiate issue.  It was a prestigious position and required spending a month in New York City.  For most of the young women, the job wasn’t too taxing – it was more about photo shoots and parties – but for those who showed real promise, like Plath, the work could be difficult.  Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953, by Elizabeth Winder, chronicles Plath’s summer – a time full of promise and hope, before depression engulfed her.

Winder obviously did a lot of research before writing this book – it’s full of details and quotes from the other guest editors.  I was fascinated and totally engrossed in Plath’s story the whole time I read this book.  Before reading it, I only knew the basics about Plath – that she was a gifted poet who committed suicide.  I enjoyed a glimpse into her early life and want to read the much referenced The Bell Jar after reading this book.

As much as I enjoyed Plath’s story, I also enjoyed the glimpse into 1953 – a time when young women were beginning to move to the city to find jobs to support themselves.  Women were just beginning to find some freedom but were still restricted by society’s standards – for instance, they could never think of leaving home without a hat and gloves.  Diane Johnson said:

We were to be ladylike, made up, dressed up, and chaperoned as we went into the office each day, hatted of course, to shadow a senior editor.

I listened to the audio version of Pain, Parties, Work which is expertly narrated by Xe Sands.  Sands did an outstanding job and I hung on her every word – she was the perfect pick for this five and a half hour audio book.  Even though the print copy contains some photographs, I highly recommend the audio of this fascinating book.

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
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29 Comments leave one →
  1. July 5, 2013 5:48 am

    I read The Bell Jar eons ago so I think I’d like this book/audio.

  2. Beth F permalink
    July 5, 2013 7:30 am

    I too read THE BELL JAR a million years ago. I’ll have to track this one down.

  3. July 5, 2013 7:33 am

    This book sounds wonderful.

    Thanks for the great review.

    Elizabeth

  4. July 5, 2013 8:05 am

    I’m not really interested in reading more about Sylvia Plath, but I love the dress on the cover!

  5. July 5, 2013 10:43 am

    I loved Plath’s Bell Jar, mostly because of how much it seemed to predict her eventual suicide (at least that’s the way I interpreted the last chapter). I hope you enjoy it if you choose to read it. I want to read this one, but I don’t think I will be able to get through the book. I totally forgot about the audiobook. I am going to try getting the audio version.

  6. July 5, 2013 10:49 am

    Thanks for your review.

  7. July 5, 2013 10:56 am

    I’m fascinated. The audio sounds great. Thanks for the review..adding to listmm

  8. July 5, 2013 11:44 am

    Wow…I am always in awe of what you read! I

  9. July 5, 2013 11:45 am

    I’m just so thrilled that others are finding and loving Winder’s book. I want to give it to everyone I know!

  10. July 5, 2013 11:47 am

    I am in love with this period in history and with Plath. Must read!

  11. July 5, 2013 12:46 pm

    This sounds fascinating. Like you said, I don’t know much about Sylvia Plath except for the basics. I thought I had read the Bell Jar in high school, but maybe I just knew enough people who carried it around all the time that I *thought* I’d read it? Because I don’t have any clear memories of her story. I’d love to read this first, to get a different perspective on it.

  12. Amy @ My Friend Amy permalink
    July 5, 2013 1:11 pm

    aw I want to read this. I’m so glad to hear that you liked it.

  13. July 5, 2013 1:30 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Like most commenters, I only had had the impressions of Plath left behind by her poetry and what I’ve heard of The Bell Jar (which I now MUST read). This book, while an often upbeat look at Plath before she became what she has been remembered as being, is actually rather tragic in the context of the dissolution we now know she suffered after her internship. And I was left wondering how different things might have been for her if she had never gone to New York that summer.

  14. July 5, 2013 2:01 pm

    The audio was quite beautiful wasn’t it? I did check out a copy of the book from the library to see about some of the formatting (those chapters just seemed so short on audio!) and see the pictures but I think that audio is definitely the way to go. While my grandma and her sisters were a bit older than Plath in the 50s, I couldn’t help but compare their lives to Plath’s time in New York. It really was a fascinating glimpse, wasn’t it?

  15. July 5, 2013 2:07 pm

    This sounds like such an interesting book, and I’m always on the lookout for great audio versions. I’m definitely adding this one to my TBR.

  16. July 5, 2013 3:14 pm

    I’ve heard so much about the great narration of Xe Sands. I hope I have the opportunity to read a book narrated by her.

  17. July 5, 2013 3:23 pm

    “As much as I enjoyed Plath’s story, I also enjoyed the glimpse into 1953 – a time when young women were beginning to move to the city to find jobs to support themselves. Women were just beginning to find some freedom but were still restricted by society’s standards”
    I think this was my favorite part as well :) Enjoyed your review!

  18. July 5, 2013 4:17 pm

    I don’t listen to many audiobooks, but this one almost sounds like a must-listen! Excellent review, Kathy.

  19. July 5, 2013 4:36 pm

    Loved The Bell Jar so wouldn’t mind trying this one. Thanks for sharing Kathy.

  20. July 5, 2013 9:04 pm

    I am sold! One – my book club read The Bell Jar a few years back for our classic month and I enjoyed it and dug deeper into the life of Sylvia Plath – two – audio with Xe Sands sounds like a perfect way to enjoy this! I am off to see if it is on available on Audible right now!

  21. July 5, 2013 9:28 pm

    I love this cover.

    So glad you liked it.
    So glad to read your perspective on the time period too.

  22. July 6, 2013 8:26 am

    Between you and Trish, this sounds like a must listen! I have never read The Bell Jar either… think I’ll make both books a project very soon.

  23. July 6, 2013 12:01 pm

    I was deeply moved by Plath’s poetry in high school. I went on to read The Bell Jar and although it is not one of my favorite books, it did stay with me. And Plath’s tragic life is haunting to me. I have seen several reviews for this book and it is already on my TBR list.

  24. July 7, 2013 8:25 pm

    I was offered an ARC of this but then waited to long to accept and they ran out! I bet I would love this on audio, though.

  25. July 8, 2013 3:04 pm

    I’ll be adding this one to my wish list. It sounds like one I would enjoy. I went through a Sylvia Plath phase.

  26. July 9, 2013 2:46 pm

    I’m glad, though a little bemused, that so many bloggers are finding this a good introduction to Plath.

  27. July 10, 2013 8:04 pm

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this one. I thought it was an interesting look at Plath’s summer in NYC, but I felt it was more a commentary on the time period and the tensions women felt between working and being wives and mothers and not seeing a way to be both.

  28. July 14, 2013 11:18 pm

    This sounds amazing. I read The Bell Jar and scratched my head because I wasn’t moved the way I thought I would be. Maybe learning more about Plath would be a good move!

  29. July 19, 2013 11:22 pm

    I enjoyed The Bell Jar, especially her time at the magazine so I think I’d really like this one.

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