Chicklit Club



The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath - Kimberly Knutson (2015)


Set in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this relates the story of young married couple, Wilson and Katie Lavender. He is a self-proclaimed genius, a father of three who teaches women's studies at the local college, which is ironic since Wilson constantly questions his lack of insight into women, particularly of his wife Katie. Wilson is a recovering alcoholic, trying to write a dissertation about Sylvia Plath, whilst balancing the ever-increasing demands of his wife, family and fighting addiction. Katie is an earth mother, who sees feelings in colour, and although highly educated has no other aims in life than to read People magazine, eat chocolate and fancy her neighbour, Steven. When Katie's sister, January, arrives out of the blue, pregnant and wanting help, they find their union is pushed to the brink. In order to escape the pressure, Wilson begins an ill-fated liaison with Alice Cherry, his enigmatic colleague, who offers him an escape route from his humdrum life, in more ways than one. Katie, on the other hand, imprisoned in a stagnant marriage and haunted by her abusive childhood seeks refuge by using her body as an outlet, but finds the lessons of her childhood colour the realities of her present situation, namely that love and sex are not always the same thing... This was a rollercoaster of a book which provides a unique insight into modern family life and marriage. The author's writing is just beautiful and is so multi-layered. Each of the main characters are dealing with the aftermath of their troubled pasts: Katie is trying to reconcile her current life with her abusive childhood. Her marriage to Wilson is flawed and she struggles to balance this with the increasing demands of motherhood, seeking escapism in her crush on Steven. Wilson, similarly, has suffered with an emotionally absent mother which has caused him to turn to alcohol in the past to numb his emotional pain. Even January is trying to connect to her former life in wanting to re-establish herself with her big love, Steve Flame, the 80s rock drummer. The author cleverly uses a time construct to navigate back and forth from the past to the present so that we can learn about each of the character's lives and the reason for the situation they find themselves in. The prose can at times be stark and deals with the harsh practicalities of life. Although the reader is drawn to each of the main characters and their individual plights, the writing is infused with realism and consequently, although the reader finds themselves rooting for them, the characters do not always get the happy endings that they deserve. I loved this book - it reminded me in some ways of J.D. Salinger writings and even Plath herself. It is an exquisitely constructed and deeply layered book; insightful, poetic and often tragic which deals with so many themes that the reader can relate and resonate with. (LP)



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