As I read the first stunning pages of Wintering, I decide to follow this incarnation of Sylvia Plath wherever she may lead, my companion book of her last book of poems, Ariel, ready for frequent reference. In this outstanding fictional debut, Kate Moses accomplishes an extraordinary feat, climbing into the soul of her subject, draping herself in the poet's phrases and feelings, so in tune with this complicated character as to be almost indistinguishable from the artist.
With exquisite detail and imagination, Moses breathes life into Plath and renders this important poet accessible, her painful journey familiar, her very female-ness a paean to the struggles of all women/artists/mothers. As Plath's final tortured poems pour from her wounded psyche, she never turns away from a complete acceptance and commitment to each facet of her life. As a writer blessed with luminous talent, an adoring mother of two beloved children, an alert observer of everyday bounty, Plath fully inhabits every moment. Creative impulse surges through her last days, defining every insomniac moment; whether in anticipation of temporary reprieve or thrust into the utter despair of loss, the poet surfaces over and over with a burst of hope.
Having betrayed their marriage, Plath's husband retreats into the solace of guilt while she courageously purges the resulting emotional turmoil, yielding the intense final poems that seem, by their very power, to offer deliverance: "He has seen what she had been able to do, freed of their claustrophobic symbiosis, his eye upon her, her own, pitiless, upon herself." Yet Plath is undone, that fierce daily battle exhausting her resources, the precious existence she has lovingly envisioned shattered irrevocably.
Wintering fairly hums with the incandescent energy of language. A scholar might spend hours examining the subtle nuances of Moses' intimate interpretation of Plath; a fan who simply delights in the cadence of letters alliterating may read for the pleasure of such awesome composition. Then again, perhaps, like me, one may choose to wander through the carefully constructed, elegantly furnished rooms of a woman's soul, a woman who lived her art, unflinching. Until her death, the Sylvia Plath of Wintering is never less than brilliantly alive.