Assia Wevill was 35 and on her third husband when Ted Hughes, the future British poet laureate, visited her London advertising firm in June 1962 and left her a simple note. 'œI have to come to see you,' he wrote, 'œdespite all marriages.' Hughes' wife, of course, was fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The couple was then living in Devon with their two children and renting their London flat to Wevill and her husband, David. Those entanglements were quickly brushed aside. Within weeks, Hughes had moved back to the city, and Assia was extending her lunch breaks to make time for assignations in hotels or the back of a borrowed Ford van. Upon learning of the affair, David Wevill attempted suicide. Months later, Plath gassed herself in a London kitchen.
Assia Wevill, until now, has been all but 'œairbrushed' out of one of literature's most tragic love stories, said Peter Porter in the London Guardian. That is what Hughes seemed to want, but it is unfair. Those of us who knew Wevill understand that she was 'œmore than just a beautiful woman,' and the authors of Lover of Unreason have done a great service by assembling in 'œgreat detail' the story of her own brief, luminous life. Born in Berlin in 1927, Wevill was a 'œbrilliantly well-read' editor and translator, said Megan O'Grady in Vogue. She was, in a sense, the very embodiment of the prewar European culture that Hughes found so alluring. She was also more like Plath than either woman could have known.
Hughes comes across in this new account as both 'œbrutal' and 'œbeleaguered,' said The New Yorker. Wevill may have been prone to histrionics, but Hughes proved maddeningly ambivalent about settling down with her, even after the couple had a daughter together. Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev are investigative reporters by trade, but they write 'œwith nimble, novelistic pacing' as the horrors of this doomed romance accumulate. In early 1969, after yet another telephone argument, Wevill turned on the oven in her own London flat and laid down to die as Plath had. Plath, however, had ensured her two young children would survive. Wevill's final act was to curl up in the kitchen with her sleeping 4-year-old.