Until the publication of this book, 35 years after Plath's suicide, Hughes had said and published nearly nothing about his relationship and life with Plath. When it was discovered that he had infidelities while with Plath and had destroyed some of Plath's works after her death, some critics depicted him as a monster and Plath as a victim. In one instance, Hughes's name was chipped off Plath's tombstone in Yorkshire.
The "Ted Hughes controversy" concerned his possible role in Plath's suicide and subsequent attempts at controlling the finished products of her poetry. The speculation resulted in extra-literary attention on Plath and Hughes and, consequently, their works as poets. Poems including The Blue Flannel Suit directly address their relationship, and many are directly addressed to Plath herself.