As part of Faber & Faber’s Faber Stories series, Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom was an unpublished story by writer and poet Sylvia Plath, which was originally written when Plath was a student at Smith College. Full of allegory and majesty, this short tale highlights some of Plath’s struggle with independence and control.
Lips the colour of blood, the sun an unprecedented orange, train wheels that sound like ‘guilt, and guilt, and guilt’: these are just some of the things Mary Ventura begins to notice on her journey to the ninth kingdom. It’s a dark journey, which is easily readable, incorporating some of Plath’s prolific imagery.
‘But what is the ninth kingdom?’ she asks a kind-seeming lady in her carriage. ‘It is the kingdom of the frozen will,’ comes the reply. ‘There is no going back.’ Haunting, yet intriguing, this short sinister tale underpins Plath’s journey towards her own independence. It’s a wonderful piece of prose that can be consumed in an evening, leaving you open to all kinds of bizarre dreams whilst in slumber. Tension, uncertainty and control are all very much present within this forty-eight-page story, which unfolds as the train journey unfolds.
Clumsy in parts and quite clearly not her best of works, it is understandable to some degree that this piece of short fiction was originally refused publication. However, I can’t help but think that Sylvia Plath’s strange, dark tale of independence over infanticide, is one for those that are fans of her poetry and works, as it provides a little more insight into the writer during the days after she had not long left home. It’s one that might add richness to those that are spellbound by her memoirs and letters, as it certainly more than hints at her own uncertainties and tension with her own life journey. I am sure they will be thankful to Faber & Faber to bringing it to their attention.
Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom is available now, published by Faber & Faber.