In 1956, 23-year-old Sylvia Plath walked into a party and immediately spotted Ted Hughes. This encounter--now one of the most famous in all literary history--began what has become a modern myth. Sylvia viewed Ted as something of a colossus, and to this day his enormous shadow has obscured her life and work. Before she met Ted, Plath had lived a complex, creative, and disturbing life. Her father had died when she was only eight; she had gone out with hundreds of men, had been unofficially engaged, had attempted suicide, and had written more than 200 poems. This book chronicles these early years, traces the sources of her mental instability, and examines how a range of personal, economic, and societal factors conspired against her. Drawing on exclusive interviews with friends and lovers who have never spoken openly about Plath before, and using previously unavailable archives and papers, this is the first book to focus on the early life of the twentieth century's most popular and enduring female poet.--From publisher description.