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Somewhere Towards the End: A Memoir

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  1,356 Ratings  ·  307 Reviews
The New York Times bestseller: a prize-winning, critically acclaimed memoir on life and aging —“An honest joy to read” (Alice Munro).

Hailed as “a virtuoso exercise” (Sunday Telegraph), this book reflects candidly, sometimes with great humor, on the condition of being old. Charming readers, writers, and critics alike, the memoir won the Costa Award for Biography and made A
Paperback, 208 pages
Published December 7th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Richard Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham - I have it to read - it is from a Christian perspective.
Also I bought Miracles of Life…more
Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham - I have it to read - it is from a Christian perspective.
Also I bought Miracles of Life by J G Ballard based on a book review on TV again unread but I think it talks about reflections of age and death in the family.
The first book however I am going to read was recommended by you, thank you(less)
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Community Reviews

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Petra Eggs
Diana Athill, a top British editor, wrote this short reflection on life and how it might end for her when she was 89. The writing is stunning, every sentence is perfectly-crafted and thoughful. Short as it is, however, its not short enough: the brilliance of the writing is not enough to overcome the tedium of the subject illuminated only occasionally by the witty recounting of stories and unusual characters. I don't often feel disappointed in myself if I didn't enjoy the book, but here I feel th ...more
Aug 06, 2013 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: auto-and-biog
It took me a bit of courage to approach this book, in the same way it is taking me a bit of courage to approach old age. It’s so much easier to switch off and act as if it isn’t going to happen. But I am sixty-one, and whilst I feel middle-aged, I am also aware that old age is somewhere round the corner. It’s getting a bit too close for comfort.

I needn’t have worried. This is the most amazing book for anyone who is on the path towards old age to read. What an intelligent, original and insightfu
Rebecca Foster
This wonderful memoir of old age is delightful from the first sentences onwards (pugs always help):

Near the park which my bedroom overlooks there came to stay a family which owned a pack of pugs, five or six of them, active little dogs, none of them overweight as pugs so often are. I saw them recently on their morning walk, and they caused me a pang. I have always wanted a pug and now I can’t have one, because buying a puppy when you are too old to take it for walks is unfair.

Athill (who is sti
Gisela Hafezparast
I have sort of been aware of this book for a while when it was published it was quite widely marketed and as she is a fascinating women lucky and privileged enough to work in the publishing in what must have been its glory days, I put it on my reading list. It came to the forefront as watching family and friends approaching the end of life, I wanted to know what that must feel like and I thought this book might help.
In this book Diana Athill very honestly describes what it means to be in your la
Tom Mayer
Nov 30, 2008 Tom Mayer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edited
This is an extraordinary book about aging and flourishing in your later years. Athill, now 91, was once a top-flight editor in England working with writers like Naipaul and Jean Rhys. She has written several memoirs, each more brilliant than the last. She is truly an editor's writer, in that she gets more done in half a sentence than the rest of us can manage in a paragraph. This particular memoir, which was heavily praised in England, is a finalist for the Costa Prize (formerly the Whitbread Aw ...more
Mar 04, 2009 Letha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes a book comes along that so perfectly fits your concept of life as it is and as it will be that you feel you must talk about it -- and that you must convince all your friends to read it. This is such a book.

At age 89, Diana Athill has written a moving and thoughtful memoir on what it means to grow old as an atheist and as a single woman. Athill writes beautifully, with no frills or fancies, and she has an honest approach to the end that we all face.
Feb 07, 2010 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do you ever wonder what really old people think about death? As baby-boomers age, it will become increasingly interesting to have a variety of perspectives on death. Not the kind presented by people whose lives are suddenly cut tragically short by a terminal illness, but a memoir from a really articulate person about facing the end of one's life with grace. This book is just the ticket. The author was born in 1917, and she is just delightful. She is a retired book editor living in London with he ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Somewhere Towards the End isn't the first book to describe in detail the process of "falling away," the author's apt euphemism for the decline one experiences in old age. Critics compare Athill's memoir to John Bayley's Elegy for Iris and Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck, or the fiction of Philip Roth, Alice Munro, and John Updike. But Athill writes with a nothing-to-lose attitude that brings dignity to a process so often marked by the inevitable slowing of the mind and the deterioration o

I grew to love Diana Athill by the end of this work - the later chapters are wonderful reflections on the things that have made her elder years fulfilling and enjoyable. Her ability to adapt, to seize upon new ideas and experiences, to modify her expectations to meet the abilities in her body - all were wonderful to consider.

Yet the early chapters of the book were a real stumbling block for me. Athill's remembrances of her early life are not particularly gripping, nor are her reflections insight
Jun 11, 2011 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I think I really should read more books by women. When they are written by fully-realized individuals such as Diana Athill, they round out the Mephistophelean male impulse with a certain je ne sais quoi. (For the time being, it must remain so because, being irreparably a male, I am inhibited from expressing the full range of human emotions.)

As I lifted the book off the shelf at the Santa Monica Public Library, I thought, "This looks like an interesting book about living at an advanced age." What
Apr 01, 2015 Dierregi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
This book was on my mother’s night table and I found the title intriguing. My mother is now 84, close to Athill’s age when she wrote the book. I am obviously younger, but already concerned by thoughts of mortality (my own and my parents).

Having recently read a book about aging (Out of time) which I did not like, I was wary, but decided to plunge in regardless. I am really glad I did.

Aging is definitely the last taboo of our time, together with death. However, TV shows and video games somehow acq
Alan Shaw
Jun 18, 2013 Alan Shaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This short elegantly written book is part memoir and part observation about the onset of old age. The author – still very much with us I’m glad to say - was born in 1917 and wrote it when she was 87.
There is nothing ‘old’ about her style, and her memory and famous sense of humour are on top form. A great strength is the ability to describe both early and much later episodes of her life with tremendous honesty and clarity, and not to flinch from recounting events that do not necessarily show her
Nov 09, 2010 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
In this very slender end-of-life memoir Athill, a former esteemed editor with publishing house Andre Deutsch, reflects on aging and death, good deaths and bad, physical infirmities, her lack of husband or children (she was always the Other Woman), her lovers, sex life and end thereof, elderly driving mishaps, and why at age 89 she no longer reads fiction. (A feature I've noticed in other senior citizens too. Perhaps they're onto something.) She is a good writer, whose writing is put to better us ...more
Joe McNally
Jul 12, 2013 Joe McNally rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You will read few books where the first thing you do on finishing is Google the author's name to see if she/he is still alive.

Diana wrote this when she was 89. It is worth reading for the quality of the writing alone; the wisdom and entertainment are a beautiful bonus.

Miss Athill's life seems a fine example of the maxim that says, it isn't what happens to you that matters, it's your attitude to it. The big adaption she makes, in my opinion,is to Barry, her long term partner/friend/flatmate. We a
Nov 30, 2008 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: health, memoirs, death
Athill, perhaps the British book publishing industry's most famous editor (thanks in part to her earlier memoirs) reflects on her imminent death, freely admitting she has "no lessons to be learnt, no discoveries to be made, no solutions to offer." And no apologies, either: She writes unflinchingly about how her relationship with her longtime companion began during his previous marriage, and how they had already stopped having sex by the time he left his wife and moved in with her--and that's why ...more
I enjoyed reading this little book of musings about aging. Not life-changing, but quite interesting. My favorite quote:

"it is a reminder" (being around young people) "that we are not just dots at the end of thin black lines projecting into nothingness, but are parts of the broad, many-coloured river teeming with beginnings, ripenings, decayings, new beginnings--are still parts of it, and our dying will be part of it just as these children's being young is, so while we still have the equipment to
Nov 10, 2011 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Somewhere towards the end is a touching and intelligent memoir, by a woman still highly astute well into her nineties. Diana Athill writes about what many older people really think about. She remembers old lovers, some from not that long ago, discusses religion, death and how it felt to become a writer unexpectedly. This is a lovely, readable memoir, it is never depressing, melancholic or self-pitying. Diana Athill comes across as the sort of older woman I would want to be in many ways - eminent
Claire Peal
Nov 15, 2013 Claire Peal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing. My admiration for Athill is immense. To deal with the often taboo topic of old age in such an interesting, inspiring ( often very moving) way explains why I read this book in less than 24 hours. Her candid style is so refreshing and whilst i know so few of her references it makes not the slightest impact on my enjoyment of this book. I have come away with books I want to read, things I feel motivated to do, affirmation of my own beliefs and a strong desire to ring my mum. A must read an ...more
cansu m
Jan 26, 2017 cansu m rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
warm and revealing book about the joys and melancholy of old age from a literary heroine. loved it.
I read an article about the author and thought this book would be a great read. Ms. Athill is a very good writer, putting words together in a great fashion. No doubt her skills were honed over the years by her editing of other authors as she was a prominent British editor. This book is about the end of her life, her twilight years (although I believe she is still alive). It opens with her realizing that she will not live to see some of her garden plantings. Okay, that's depressing, but I'm readi ...more
Nov 06, 2011 Andreww rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Somewhere Toward The End - Diana Athill

As usual I arrive late to things. Diana Athill’s book, Somewhere Toward The End is a gorgeous analysis of what it’s like to be close to the end. She stares into the abyss from her position 89 years into the journey on Planet Earth and offers back reflections and wisdom on the experience so far.

She has had a fascinating life, but it is not the hint of celebrity’s met, famous writer’s supported or places been to that impresses. It is the sheer clarity in expl
Nov 02, 2013 Susan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In this memoir published when she was ninety-one, Diana Athill explores old age. She writes clearly and honestly about age and loss, death and dying, art, reading, gardening, and the messiness and satisfactions of life.

"All through my sixties I felt I was still within hailing distance of middle age, not safe on its shores, perhaps, but navigating its coastal waters. My seventieth birthday failed to change this because I managed scarcely to notice it, but my seventy-first did change it. Being " o
Paula Maguire
May 25, 2013 Paula Maguire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had read so much about this book - only praise and thought it might give me some insight into what it's like to be old - It did, but nothing too deep. Some aspects of thinking about how you want to live to see a plant/ child grow - how will your time come. Looking back and appreciating your life. She did make the point that a life sharpened by education was beneficial in old age as there were so many places to escape the written word. Unfortunately mum doesn't have this and positivity is also ...more
Jun 03, 2009 Helen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Helen by: NYT Book Review
I didn't finish this book. Once again all I needed to read and wanted to read was in the NYT Book Review. I was hoping for a take on how elderly people feel when their lives begin to disappear. This woman, who was ninety when she wrote the book, had written a passage about how it felt to give up driving. It was very moving. So I thought she would be all insight to understanding this transition.

As it turns out all she wanted to do was tell you about her younger life, how many men she had slept wi
Feb 25, 2009 Ed rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone curious about their inevitable decline.
I think I let my expectations get in the way of truly enjoying this book. I had read some very positive reviews praising the frankness and honesty of Athill's description of her declining years.

I found the book's so-called frankness to be somewhat boring. It seemed to always come back to her sexual experiences.

Her description of her declining faculties depressed me. Maybe because my own are declining and I'd rather not read about other people's struggles with sore feet, etc. I've got my own sor
Sep 07, 2012 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It might just reflect my choice of reading matter, but I've not encountered many accounts of what it is like to be really old - late Philip Roth perhaps, and not much else. This was a considerably more uplifting book than anything Roth has written recently, while not flinching from the depredations of extreme old age. Highlight for me were her thoughts on how the novel had evolved since she first started picking up her parents' old paperbacks to flick through in her teens, back in the early 1930 ...more
Apr 12, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A quick read of a renowned book editor, though I admit I've never heard of her, or remember what prompted me to want to read her memoir. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it, her take on life and death in general, and ruminations on her own long and interesting journey. She writes sparingly (sign of a good book editor) but drew me in with her style of writing. It was almost like listening to her in a cafe over cups of coffee. Wisdom, eloquent writing, just plain common sense - I really connecte ...more
Dec 06, 2016 Katrina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very entertaining read and not at all depressing.
Most of the essays were written when Athill was eighty-nine years old and focus on aging and Athill's reflections and feelings as she enters the likely future--let's face it--end of her life.

This book got many raving reviews. I wish I could say it knocked me out, but it really didn't. Although I'd probably give it 2-1/2 stars if I could. I found most of the chapters rambling with frequent diversions from the subject, and for the most part, a bit dull. Perhaps my expectations were just too high d
Kevin (booksaremarvellous)
Diana Athill looks back on her life within this book. She writes about the traditional role of a woman and how her life differs from it. She talks about family, relationships, work, her books. How much better it is if you don't live according to society's expectations.

Her writing style is easy going and often it makes you laugh. She wrote this book just as she lived her life: with a lot of fun and with no regret.

I would definitely recommend this book. And everybody who reads it should reflect
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Diana Athill was born in Norfolk in 1917 and educated at home until she was fourteen. She read English at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and graduated in 1939. She spent the war years working at the BBC Overseas Service in the News Information Department. After the war she met André Deutsch and fell into publishing. She worked as an editor, first at Allan Wingate and then at André Deutsch, until her r ...more
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“I am not sure that digging in our past guilts is a useful occupation for the very old, given that one can do so little about them. I have reached a stage at which one hopes to be forgiven for concentrating on how to get through the present.” 11 likes
“An important aspect of the ebbing of sex was that other things became interesting. Sex obliterates the individuality of young women more often than it does that of young men, because so much more of a woman than a man is used by sex.” 8 likes
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