Rachel Reviews: The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath's book of children's stories and verse is funny, original and magical and has that repetitive rhythmic quality for easy reading
I had no idea that Sylvia Plath wrote children's stories and I'm not sure why this surprised me so much. I purchased this book on a whim in a charity shop, out of curiosity but also because I have not really read much of Plath's work. I'm not sure why that is really. I think that my perception of Plath is of someone battling with depression and so my view of what her work may contain or the subjects that her compositions may be about has been tainted somewhat. I'm not saying that that has put me off but likewise, that assumption may not have drawn me in. I have rectified this by ordering "The Bell Jar" and will report back on my impressions in due course.
This view may also have been reinforced by a poem of hers called "Mirror", which I must confess, is the only work of hers before this collection that I've read (shameful!), it being about a woman who's ageing and doesn't really like what she sees reflected back as a result.
The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit and Other Stories, however, does much to present Plath in a more favourable light as it contains two stories and a poem aimed at children, and as a result, is filled with quirky characters and episodes and events that have elements of family and magic and all round goodness in them. I suppose, as a starter to Plath, these gentle stories do lead you in gently and if anyone ever asks me if I have read Sylvia Plath, I can answer "Yes" in earnest.
The first The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit is a tale of a boy called Max desperate to have a suit of his own but before it becomes his, it has to go through a whole load of transformation until eventually, he gets to wear it. You could read some deeper message into this about individuality and not pigeonholing yourself into a certain mindset or group of habits from what happens in the story, or you could simply read it as a funny little tale of a boy and his aspirations for a suit to suit. Either way, it has charm. I think that the days of children wearing suits of daily activity may be a long way behind us now - my kids prefer loose fitting elasticated "tracky pants" and the thought of wearing anything tailored produces a grimace equivalent to being told they need to put on a suit of armour - and so, this may be a story of its time but I liked it.
The second story is Mrs Cherry's Kitchen which was my favourite. It is slightly surreal, involves pixies and some appliances who want to diversify their roles in the kitchen and again, like The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit, you could probably read some deeper meaning into it but I read it as a tale of silliness, resulting in chaos which is all reordered by the end.
The final entry is a poem of four-line verse called The Bed Book, which is an exploration of the many properties that beds can have and, I would surmise, seeing the bed as an area to indulge in play-pretend. I liked this one the least despite its rhythm and fun and again, it may be of its time when kids were less entertained and had to find ways to entertain themselves.
The book has a quality of a time gone by so I'm not sure how well today's child would relate to it without some parental encouragement but worth exploring for its provenance? Maybe. It's not the best children's book I've ever read but it is by no means the worst either. It contains nothing really that makes it stand out other than its famous author.
Rachel Rating: 3/5 stars
Parts of this review were first published on Reedsy Discovery:
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About the Creator
Mum, blogger, crafter, reviewer, writer, traveller: I love to write and I am not limited by form. Here, you will find stories, articles, opinion pieces, poems, all of which reflect me: who I am, what I love, what I feel, how I view things.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!