This is Diana Athill’s sixth book of memoirs. She spent her life in London in writing and editing. She helped Andre Deutsch start his own publishing company and worked there for four decades. She never married, but at the age of forty-three got pregnant. In this book she describes the experience of losing her baby and in fact almost losing her life. “Alive, alive oh” is how she feels about surviving. In this book she looks back at some of the things that have stayed at the top of her memories.
There is a lot of beauty in the book. Athill grew up in comfortable circumstances and there are lovely descriptions of her grandparents’ house and garden which was actually a large park. She writes with humour and honesty about the First and Second World Wars, as well as her trips to Europe as a young woman. She is often frank, as well as wise and funny. It is an unusual memoir, to say the least.
Reviewed by Anne McDougall