Jun's Reviews > Instead of a Letter: A Memoir

Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Nov 22, 2010

it was amazing
Read in November, 2010

Somber, unflinching, delightful memoir of a middle class woman who grew up like all little girls of her class do until WWII, feminism, and other midcentury reappraisals of life's purpose, both historical and personal, change it forever. Diane Athill was the editor of some of the most important English language literature of the 20th century. Simply, it's a book about an ordinary woman who discovers that she is a writer and a lover instead of a wife, mother, and would-be matriarch. It's also about the meaning of life, humble and real as its slow discovery and continued questioning is. As a single working woman, I identified a lot with her feelings and thoughts regardless of the generations that stand between us. Athill is so mundanely modern--I never would have thought that a semi-upper crust Englishwoman who came of age during WWII would have anything in common with me--someone who came of age in the Bill Clinton 90s. But we do. It reminded me a small-scale, more casual, less dramatic and realistic everywoman version of the biography of Janet Frame. I enjoyed Athill's summary description of herself as "lazy." I appreciated that.

Just imagine, if her asshole boyfriend hadn't jilted her during the war, we wouldn't have this lovely book. I think that's the point of it.
5 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Instead of a Letter.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Wayne (new)

Wayne I was curious about Diana Athill having just viewed this white haired, relaxed, smiling woman speak about her family life and her growing awareness that her younger sister wasn't her father's,her first kiss from Tony which was cold because the car window was open to the night air and his face and lips were consequently cold
...she was an absolute delight.
Later, in this British TV series titled "Love and Marriage: A 20th Century Romance: For Better or Worse.
Part One of 3 episodes, Diana Athill, who was only one of several men and women talked about their childhoods and adult lives, spoke about how Tony finally broke his silence with a letter explaining he was marrying another woman.She was shattered, but said in those days when people were forced by circumstance to seize life because annihilation in wartime was very much on the cards...and Tony did die in an air battle, she didn't blame him. Later she met his son and admired the qualities of his wife, the woman who had replaced her.She had accepted Life's deal and as far as I could see had continued to flower as a person one could only warm to . No small achievement.
I do hope you get a chance Jun to find and view this episode. All of it was impressive and Diana a gem.

back to top