Friday 20 October 2017

Our heroines don't need to eschew beauty

Outrage over glamorous covers of Sylvia Plath's books denies the author's many-sided personality

OPPRESSED BY THE FIGURES OF BEAUTY: Sylvia Plath, whose work has been presented with a wide variety of covers
OPPRESSED BY THE FIGURES OF BEAUTY: Sylvia Plath, whose work has been presented with a wide variety of covers
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

The 50th anniversary of Sylvia Plath's acclaimed and only novel, The Bell Jar, was marked with a special edition cover in 2013. Publisher Faber was savaged by Plath fans for the new edition which depicted a woman, with matching red lips and nails, touching up her make-up with a powder compact.

The book's title is spelt out in a jaunty, acid green font that would look more at home on a lifestyle blog. It jars spectacularly with the scarlet chosen as the background colour. Readers accused the publishing house of trying to dumb down the nature of the novel and market it as chick-lit.

Four years on, Faber finds itself in a very similar situation. The Letters of Sylvia Plath (available from October 17) is a collection of previously unseen letters written by Plath throughout her short life. The US edition, published by Harper Collins, features a close-up shot of Plath dressed smartly in a belted jacket, smiling quietly as she glances out of the frame. Faber's UK edition shows a very different Plath; a buxom blonde grinning at the camera, wearing a white two-piece swimsuit, while kneeling on a sandy beach.

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