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Instead Of A Letter: A Memoir (1962)

by Diana Athill(Favorite Author)
3.79 of 5 Votes: 5
0393338576 (ISBN13: 9780393338577)
W. W. Norton & Company
review 1: I got on very well with the open honest voice that relates these memories. Diana Athill recounts for us her childhood as a member of a 'poor' branch of a rich Norfolk family. She is very aware of the benefits her extended family brought to her but also the injustices implied. She is remarkably open about her adolescent interest in sex and her attempts to find out the realities that were being studiously hidden from her. I have found a number of sexually explicit books nauseating but Athill does not linger on the physical aspects but delves deep into the psychological aspects without ever being the slightest bit romantic, which I found refreshing. She is similarly honest about her participation in the war effort. I enjoyed her descriptions of working in a publishing house a... morend also a visit to Corfu. Her descriptions of the environment are enchanting. The one aspect which I found less satisfactory is the patchy nature of the book which starts avoiding subjects because they have been earmarked for other books. It felt like an unfinished masterpiece or a manuscript found with missing chapters. Perhaps I need to read more of her books to fill in the gaps.
review 2: My second Diana Athill memoir, which I loved just as much as the first I read. She has the incredible gift (like two of my favorite fiction writers, Tessa Hadley and Alice Mattison) of pinpointing, beautifully, the most subtle and deeply buried human emotions, of bringing them to the surface where they shimmer. This is one of those books that, although the circumstances it describes are completely different from my own, managed to make me feel less alone, to feel companioned and inspired. I think that's due not only to Athill's intelligence and insight but to her incredible honesty--about family, love, sex, and work. I found so much of this book moving, so it's almost impossible to pick out a single section I loved more than the others... but her writing about how she became a writer, rather late in life, and what writing means to her, will stay with me for a long time. less
Reviews (see all)
I thought the childhood and WWII section of this memoir much more engrossing than the later parts.
I love memoirs (and letters) . . . and on Kerry's recommendation I will definitely read this one!
Very good in half the pages and goodthe rest of the way.
Read it for book club. A little boring.
Read in 2013
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