Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder

Pain-Parties-WorkThat’s a long title. But the book itself is rather short and fantastic. It’s a non-fiction new release that focuses on Sylvia Plath’s summer internship with Mademoiselle magazine and the culture of the early fifties. The novel is comprised of pictures, fashion tidbits, and anecdotes from Sylvia’s diaries as well as the other ladies who interned alongside her. You also get a brief synopsis of Plath’s short life before and after her internship to give you a fuller picture of her trials and tribulations.

Winder’s purpose in writing this novel seems to be showcasing a Sylvia Plath in opposition to the typical mythology. Instead of a bleak, suicidal existence, we are privy to a 20 year old girl out living life to its fullest. Bright red lipstick, a vibrant dating life, and a vivaciousness that’s hard to imagine in someone who will attempt suicide for the first time in a few short months. Winder proves that Plath is so much more dynamic and so much more interesting than her death scene. I loved that and was thankful to see her so thoroughly fleshed out.

Having read The Bell Jar several times, I was surprisingly shocked to see just how autobiographical a character Esther was. In so many ways, Winder’s novel and Plath’s novel are like twin sisters. I think reading these books back-to-back might be a very fascinating authorial case study into the life of such a prolific human being. I can also see Pain, Parties, Work being a successful educational text – not just because of its academic qualities, but also because the book is just so dang readable. I think high schoolers and college kids alike would eat this up.

I’d recommend this look into Sylvia’s young adulthood to anyone who has ever been even remotely interested in Plath’s life, her writing, or even just the culture of the 1950s – particularly the feminine culture. I think this book could easily be read as a history of a certain time period and interest those readers who aren’t even invested in Plath herself. A great addition to any non-fiction collection. A short work that’s so accessible to any reader or even a non-reader. I’ll definitely be seeking out a finished copy for my permanent shelves!


Sylvia loved New York City and that love shines through here! I loved reading about the city in 1953. You really feel like you’re walking the streets alongside Sylvia and all her friends.


Thank you so much to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for a copy of the book in return for my honest review! Please visit the TLC website for other tour stops!

About the Author:

Elizabeth-WinderElizabeth Winder is also the author of a poetry collection. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Review, the Antioch Review, American Letters, and other publications. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and earned an MFA in creative writing from George Mason University.




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