“Capriccio: a Novel” is inspired by the life of Assia Gutmann Wevill, the “other woman” who came between poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. At the request of the Hughes Estate names of the protagonists have been changed. However, those readers familiar with the true story will easily recognise the main players. This version of the story aims to restore Assia Wevill to her place as a woman in her own right, who changed the course of literary history.
Essentially this novel throws new light on one of the most famous love triangles of the twentieth century. It, at last, tells the story of the third in the triangle, the bewitching Assia. Was she victim or perpetrator? Hunter or hunted? Or all of these?
The title “Capriccio” comes from a series of 20 poems by Ted Hughes, which deal with his fraught relationship with Assia Wevill. My original manuscript introduced each chapter with a brief quote from one of the Capriccio poems. However, I was not able to include these for copyright reasons. Those interested can find the sequence, “Capriccio” in “The Collected Poems of Ted Hughes”. They make fascinating reading.
The words “A Novel” have particular significance. They emphasise that this is a fictional account inspired by a true story. The letters, journal entries, dialogue, and many scenarios are all products of my imagination. Nevertheless, years of research have fed into my re-telling of this story.
Definition of CAPRICCIO: a lively piece of music, • a painting or other work of art representing a fantasy or a mixture of real and imaginary features. ORIGIN early 17th century (denoting a sudden change of mind): from Italian, literally ‘head with the hair standing on end’, hence ‘horror’, later ‘a sudden start’ (influenced by capra‘goat’, associated with frisky movement), fromcapo‘head’ + riccio ‘hedgehog’.
Other meanings of ‘Capriccio’ are ‘whimsical’ (at the whim of fate) and ‘horror’ ( literally ‘hair standing on end’ in Old Italian.) Both fate and horror are major themes in the novel.