Dear Sylvia Plath,

Bea Setton, Berlin

Bea Setton, Berlin

I have longed to write you a fan letter or to reach into the past to tell you the good news.

You have been an immense, triumphant success. Your talent was not lost, but immortalised in libraries, classrooms and hearts all over the world.

You were never able to enjoy your success, and it feels so unfair.

I’ve often wondered how you would feel if you knew what your voice meant to so many today, that your name stands for so much: for genius; for wit and talent, and for the confessional style that writers today admire and imitate.

I hope knowing how much you are esteemed will bring you pride and peace.

I want to thank you for being both hilarious and profound and showing that one does not necessarily exclude the other. I admire the dark crackle of humour that runs through your work, the way you’ve expanded my sense of what language can express. I want to thank you for your perfect poems. You pinned the lived moment to the page. Your art touches immortality.

I wish you had been born a few decades later.

Then you wouldn’t have lived in an era that demanded such a complex negotiation between your career and your gender. I wish you had not been raised to think men were worth more than you. I admire how you fought that lie and proved everyone wrong. I wish you had not been raised to think that marriage was a prerequisite of success and happiness. I wish you’d received better care for your depression.

But I don’t feel sorry for you; you radiate power fifty years on. I am inspired by the resilience you demonstrated for all of this; your Lady Lazarus strength to rise again and again.

But what I know of you, and the incredible work you produced in difficult conditions, makes me feel gratitude for the era that I live in. True, the society I live in now is imperfect; men still call women who disagree with them “crazy".

But I am grateful for the opportunities I have that you did not. Grateful for the ambitious and powerful women who helped me publish my first novel: my agent, Charlotte, who believed in my writing, and my editor, Alice, who helped me shape Berlin into something I’m proud of. They have amazing hair and are as feisty and stylish as you were. You would have liked them.

I want to thank you for something a lot more trivial. One evening when I was at university, I met a beautiful man in a bar, and invited him back to my room. He saw my copy of “The Bell Jar” on the bedside table and he said something to me that would have cracked you up:

“That is really sexy. I dig girls who like Plath”.

Sylvia, he was so good-looking. I think you would have approved.

For that, and everything I am yours, forever grateful.

Bea Setton

Berlin, the debut novel by Bea Setton, is out now (Doubleday, £14.99).

About Berlin 

BERLIN follows Daphne Ferber, who, in an effort to escape her demons back home in London, moves to the city in search of the hedonistic, exciting lifestyle that Berlin is famous for. Of course, she knew she'd need to do the usual: make friends, acquire lovers, grapple with German and a whole new way of life. She even expected the long nights gorging alone on family-sized jars of Nutella, and the pitfalls of online dating in another language. The paranoia, the second-guessing of her every choice, the covert behaviours? Probably come with the territory. But one night, something strange, dangerous and entirely unexpected intervenes – a brick is thrown through her bedroom window in the dead of night. Suddenly, life in bohemian Kreuzberg suddenly doesn't seem so cool. Just how much trouble is Daphne in, and who - or what - is out to get her?