A New York Times Top 10 Book of the Year Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the LA Times Book Prize A New York Times Notable Book Named a Book of the Year: O, the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Boston Globe, Literary Hub, The Times (London), The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Times of India Winner of the Biographers' Club Slightly Foxed Prize for Best First Biography
Mesmerizing . . . Comprehensive . . . Stuffed with heretofore untold anecdotes that illuminate or extend our understanding of Plath s life . . . Clark is a felicitous writer and a discerning critic of Plath s poetry . . . There is no denying the book s intellectual power and, just as important, its sheer readability.
The New York Times
A majestic tome with the narrative propulsion of a thriller. We now have the complete story.
O, The Oprah Magazine
An exhaustively researched, frequently brilliant masterwork. . . . It is an impressive achievement representing a prizeworthy contribution to literary scholarship and biographical journalism.
The Washington Post
One of the most beautiful biographies I've ever read."
Glennon Doyle, author of #1
New York Times Bestseller, Untamed
Clark masterfully analyzes the poetry with intelligent incorporation of the biography. . . . Red Comet shows that the achievement of Sylvia Plath was miraculous but it wasn t spasmodic, or rare. It was hard-won, every single day.
Los Angeles Times
Massive, insightful . . . Red Comet is a critical examination of what it means to be a female artist, to suffer from depression, and to be alone, as it is revelatory about this one particular life and the art that came from it. The red comet (an image from her poem Stings ) is an apt metaphor for Plath.
Revelatory. . . . Plath s struggles with depression and her marriage to Ted Hughes emerge in complex detail, but Clark does not let Plath s suicide define her artistic achievement, arguing with refreshing rigor for her significance to modern letters. The result is a new understanding and appreciation of an innovative, uncompromising poetic voice.
The New Yorker
A definitive biography. . . . What ultimately bursts off the page is Plath s short, vibrant life, which is too often most remembered for the way it ended: That s the irony, isn t it? says Clark. She s so incredibly alive.
Red Comet is absolutely necessary. . . . In Clark s attentive hands, Plath s life is laid out in its full complexity.
Aiming to shake the public perception of Sylvia Plath as the Marilyn Monroe of the literati, Clark delivers a meticulous, unflinching and fresh view of the brilliant, troubled poet.
Surely the final, the definitive, biography of Sylvia Plath . . . Takes its time in desensationalizing the life and the art; this lets Clark place both firmly in the literary and politically engaged contexts that formed them and simultaneously demonstrate how Plath s work, in return, gifted the writing life unimaginable new sinew.
The Guardian ( The Best Books of 2020 )
Red Comet is a mighty achievement. Clark is compassionate, clear-eyed, sceptical. Each chapter reads with the ease of a novel. . . . Plath s resilience, genius and insight blaze through the book.
The Times (UK)
Clark entices us with the impossible: an unbiased, authorised biography of Sylvia Plath. . . . Red Comet is the kind of serious literary biography Plath has long deserved but, until now, not received.
New Statesman (UK)
Unlike other biographies of Plath (1932-63), Clark s traces her subject s literary and intellectual development rather than concentrating on her undoing through suicide. . . . A masterful biography, that will especially interest literary scholars.
[A] page-turning, meticulously researched biography of Sylvia Plath. . . . Clark s in-depth scholarship and fine writing result in a superb work that will deliver fresh revelations to Plath s many devoted fans.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A sober and detailed critical biography of one of the 20th century s greatest and most misunderstood poets. . . . Redeems Plath from the condescension of easy interpretation.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Once I started reading this book, I couldn t stop; I read it upon waking and late at night, at the dinner table and during the workday. I thought I knew Plath, but this wonderful book shows me I did not. Like the lyric speakers of her late poetry, she emerges from these pages transformed. Red Comet presents Sylvia Plath as she ought to be: as an innovative, ambitious, driven artist, at a time when women weren t supposed to be any of these things. In the end, I was awestruck by Plath s courage and strength in the face of so many obstacles; I was awed, too, by the work Clark has done to bring this writer to life.
Maggie Doherty, author of The Equivalents