THE final hours of Syliva Plath’s life have long fascinated those drawn to her writing.
In Brag Of My Heart, published by Ofrezco Press, Bradford author Dr Andrew Liddle imagines Plath’s last night, battling demons, re-living the best and worst of times, and communing with herself, her parents and her estranged husband, Ted Hughes. Drawing on her poetry and journals, it’s an intriguing interpretation of what might have occurred.
Dr Liddle has spent much of his life teaching English literature and has published textbooks, articles, fiction, poetry and self-help manuals. Trying to create an account of what might have gone through Plath’s mind on the night she took her life, he finally decided on a novella, told in the first person. “I confess that as a young English student I didn’t really understand Sylvia Plath’s work,” says Dr Liddle. “My PhD was on Robert Burns, a poet of a very different nature. Plath’s poetry was dense, multi-layered, difficult. Only when teaching her for English A-level at Bradford Boys’ Grammar and Hipperholme Grammar did I come to understand her genius.
“It is, of course, impossible to begin to guess what might go through a vulnerable person’s mind in the build-up to the end of everything. I had to make assumptions and use certain narrative devices. One is entitled to a degree of certainty that Sylvia would reflect on her past, her previous suicide attempts, perhaps, the people close to her and her talent as a poet. We would expect her to vacillate between extremes of emotion, hope and despair, doubt and certainty, hesitation and resolution. And we should prepare ourselves for a quantity of black humour, of the kind expressed in Lady Lazarus, her poem about suicide being attempted.”
Brag Of My Heart is a fascinating imagining of Plath’s state of mind, written both in her own poetic style and segments from her writing. It’s a must-read for fans of Plath’s work, and a haunting ode to an extraordinary talent.
* AGAINST the backdrop of a dying relationship, Bradford writer Michael O’Brien’s Flanders and Flamenco, provides an intriguing insight into life in two corners of Europe. We follow him first through life in rigidly conservative, yet hedonistic Valladolid - “the ancient capital; vain, proud, corrupt, defiant, not a word of English spoken” - then he re-locates to Lille where migrants are flooding, or maybe trickling, into Britain through Eurostar.
Armed with a hotline to the mysterious ‘H’ in London and holed up in a Lille hotel, Michael and his Spanish girlfriend are “like a cross between Dad’s Army and MI5”; isolated in a distinctly Gallic working world. But as the ‘Lille loophole’ remains unplugged, Michael gradually takes in his surroundings in Flanders, a region with “a fascinating history and bizarre contradictions”.
Born on a Clayton farm, Michael’s various jobs include dog walker, playwright, street sweeper and teacher. Fluent in French and Spanish, he describes himself as a citizen of Europe, yet a Yorkshireman at heart.
He met his Spanish girlfriend on an exchange visit in Bradford, they moved to her home city, Valladolid, and later to Lille to report numbers of illegal migrants, a job they did for two years until splitting up.
Flanders and Flamenco is an entertaining account of life overseas. Unlike other such books, it’s not written through a rosy glow - “Some of the worst winters I’ve experienced have been in Valladolid. Due to its altitude, the city falls prey to low hanging clouds for weeks, if not months. One winter I counted 22 consecutive days of cencellada, or freezing fog. Yet the summers sent me crazy too, long, pavement cracking days.‘Nine months of invierno (winter) three months of infierno (hell)’ a popular local refrain goes. It wasn’t far wrong.”
* Both books are on Amazon and Kindle.
Brag Of My Heart is £45.99 (paperback) and £2.99 (Kindle). Flanders and Flamenco is £7.99 (paperback) and £5.99 (Kindle).