The following extract from my novel ‘Capriccio’ is a fictional recreation of the last day of Sylvia Plath’s life. In this version I haven’t named her, partly to comply with a request from the Hughes estate, and partly to see if it works. What do you think, Dear Readers? Does it work?
The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.
She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.
– from ‘Edge’ by S.Plath
Rubbing her hands together, desperate for warmth, the young mother dragged a blanket from the empty cot nearby, to drape over her shoulders. Her two children were still sleeping in this hour before dawn. It took a supreme effort of will to shuffle to the little table under the bedroom window that served as a desk. She opened her journal with stiff aching fingers, and reached for her fountain pen
The water’s frozen in the pipes, and the blood’s frozen in my veins. My hands are stiff and blue with cold as I write this. It’s the worst winter London has known in over thirty years. Thirty years; my age last birthday and what have I to show for it? A failed marriage, a few poems, and a mediocre novel. At least I didn’t publish it under my own name. Mother would be mortified if she knew that monster was based on her.
There’s nothing left. Only the children – my two roses. They’ll surely be better off without me. How it breaks my heart to see them, both asleep now, thank God, curled up into their little balls in the bed we needs must share, just to keep warm. I’m seizing these precious moments to write, before they wake. As the temperature drops so the words, bitter words, are pouring out of me on these dark mornings. I’ve a feeling these new poems are the ones that will make my name, make Mother proud of me. I’m putting them all together in one collection, a small book but a powerful one.
There was just enough light to see the loose page with the draft of her last poem, Edge, its crossed out lines and scribbled notes rebuking her.
She looked again at the title page of her collection, with its simple dedication to Fleur and Timothy. The words were wrung out of her in these early mornings, when she woke to the blackness, after the sedative Dr Horder prescribed had worn off. These hours before dawn, while the children were still mercifully asleep, were hers alone. At first, in the months after He had left her, the words had flowed out of her in those silent ghostly mornings at Court Green. It was as if she needed to fill the gaping wound his absence made inside her with these new, angry, savage poems.