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Alive, Alive Oh!: And Other Things That Matter

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  173 reviews
In the near-decade since her prize-winning memoir Somewhere Towards the End became a surprise New York Times bestseller, Diana Athill has become one of the world’s preeminent voices on aging. Arriving on the eve of Diana’s ninety-eighth birthday, her new memoir is as thrilling and unsentimental as her most beloved work. An introduction locates Diana in the present day, ens ...more
Hardcover, 176 pages
Published January 4th 2016 by W. W. Norton Company
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Athill is nearly a 100 years old, she's sharp, funny and as she says of making friends in old age, you make friends not on what you are doing, or on what you might do together, but on stories. And here she shares stories of her life. And life now for her in an old-age home, which she loves. No more housework or grocery shopping and lots of friends!

The saddest story in the book if of the miscarriage when she was 43 of her only child. It is quite harrowing to read as she nearly died, but the endin
Diane S ☔
Nov 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Please, please let me be like this wonderful woman when I am 98. Let me remember things with the descriptive qualities and clarity as she does. Her grandmother's garden described beautifully, post war conditions and trips she took. Expecting her first child, feelings about being pregnant and so much more all described in incredible details. Amazing, so please, please.
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This my third Diana Athill book - all of them written when she was over eighty - in fact she was ninety-six when she wrote this one. And what a joyous, invigorating, sharp and enchanting read it is..... It consists of a series of essays on different aspects and periods of her life. She is such an original and sassy human being, and she shines a brilliant light on all sorts of different things, in a way that must surely resonate with everyone. I wish I was drinking champagne rather than coffee - ...more
Update: Last night I was lucky enough to see 98-year-old literary legend Diana Athill live in London. Here’s my blog write-up of the event. (Psssssst! I have the dirt on a forthcoming publication – and here I thought this would be her last book for sure.)

Apart from “Dead Right,” this collection is not primarily concerned with imminent death. Athill is still grateful to be alive, marvelling at a lifetime of good luck and health and taking joy in gardening, clothing, books, memories and friendship
Diane Barnes
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent! IF I make it to the age of 98, this lady is my role model. She lived life by her own rules, made the decision to go into a retirement home at 93 so as not to be a burden to friends and relatives, and still lives the way she chooses, limited only by her body. Still writing, still sharp, no regrets.

Description: Stephanie Cole reads from the new collection of essays by acclaimed writer Diana Athill, which is being published to mark the author's 98th birthday later on this month.

Written from the vantage point of her late nineties, Athill's essays are wise, cheering and thought-provoking. They range from gentle (her love of beautiful clothes), heartbreaking (the miscarriage of a much-wanted child) to salutary (her difficult decision to relinquish he
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
I have no idea in the world how I came to read this book: it must have jumped into my book bag at the library for I have no recollection of wanting it, let alone getting it. Hmmm. It seems that Athill is sharper at 100 than I am at my age!

It was an enjoyable, quick read. Humorous, sad, charming. A life well lived and someone to spin a good tale out of it.

Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
This was a thoroughly enjoyable book of memoir essays written by literary giant Diana Athill. Athill is now 98 years old and lives in a retirement home in Highgate, London. The essays covered a surprising variety of topics, everything from her childhood memories, post-war Britain, colonialism, miscarriage and abortion, and of course, aging and death.

I wasn't sure what to expect of it when I picked it up. It came recommended to me, but I'd never read any of Athill's books before. I am, however, a
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Stephanie Cole reads from the new collection of essays by acclaimed writer Diana Athill, which is being published to mark the author's 98th birthday later on this month.

Written from the vantage point of her late nineties, Athill's essays are wise, cheering and thought-provoking. They range from gentle (her love of beautiful clothes), heartbreaking (the miscarriage of a much-wanted child) to salutary (her difficult decision to relinquish her independence and mo
Amanda Brookfield
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Diana Athill was born in 1917. This means, she is at least (I don't know her actual birthday) 98 years old. And she is still writing books!!! Not just okay-ish books, but excellent ones, filled with warmth and wisdom and a directness of tone that makes me sit up and listen, no matter what she is talking about.

'Alive, Alive Oh!' is the latest product from this remarkable woman, an addition to the archive of wonderful memoirs that began with 'Stet', written after an acclaimed career as an editor
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. The writer, Diana Athill, is 99 years old, and she writes like a thirty year old---that kind of clarity and beauty and spark. Her subjects aren't always young people's subjects, but oh, I'd love to visit her and discover her secrets. How does she know how to nail racism and classism as she describes a trip as a tourist to Trinidad and Tobago? Who in her class and generation understood this? Over and over I was dazzled by her brilliance as a writer and a human being. She writes ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like to wander through the library, just to see what's on the shelves. Yesterday, I had the good luck to find a book by Diana Athill, so I nabbed it. Always worth reading, she's such a good writer. I read this all in one sitting, because it's brief, but more because she's so good you don't want to stop. Don't miss the poem at the very end, and even the acknowledgements page is a pleasure worth your time. In fact, you might turn to that page first, to get a sense of how the book came to be in y ...more
Jan 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A 2nd memoir by the elderly former British book editor Diana Athill, about aging.

This one was more focused on her choice to enter a nursing home willingly (rather than kicking-and-screaming). More thoughts and musings about the aging process, fearing/not fearing death, living life in the past, regrets, life choices, etc. Food for thought. This one I found a little less interesting than her previous memoir, just because it included a long chapter with in-depth detail about her grandfather's estat
I really do like the way that Diana Athill Writes her life stories. She has a lovely easy style which makes it a delight to read.
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading this was like a visit with Diana. It's her funeral this week and her words, on and off the page, will be ringing in my head.
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Diana Athill is best known now for her memoirs and short stories, though she began her career in publishing. Working as an editor with Andre Deutsch – one of the founders of the company, through a fifty-year career she worked with some of the biggest names in literature. Her book Stet – which I received recently, is the memoir about that work, and the people she met and worked with. I am looking forward to reading that.

“My two valuable lessons are: avoid romanticism and abhor possessiveness.”

Three and a half stars.

It wasn't an easy read. Diana Athill covers some very brave, but often unpalatable subjects in this one. One describes in great detail a miscarriage she suffered in her 40s of a much wanted child. She nearly died of a massive haemorrhage. Another chapter discusses when it was the right time for her to give up independent living and move to a care home, albeit a very smart and lovely one in North London peopled by equally like minded residents. I didn't enjoy the chapter a
Danielle Palmer
May 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lindsay Seddon
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alive, Alive, Oh! is a collection of memories that matter most to Athill as she draws nearer to her 100th birthday.

I was drawn to this after reading a review which mentioned Athill's thoughts on moving herself into a retirement/care home. It was a point of view I'd never considered before, that such a move can be a positive one for everybody concerned.

Many chapters surprised me in the same way she seemed to have always been ahead of her time. Some stories really made stop and think about my ow
Jill Blevins
Jun 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is like enjoying your favorite grandma, sharing the adventures of her lifetime, adventures of which nobody will ever have again because the world is a different place and nobody takes risks like they used to, and wishing she was your age so you could hang around her forever.

Diana Athill wrote this when she was 97, and I can't even imagine writing at 97, let alone being so lively still. The Alive Alive in the title is about something else - won't give it away - but she is twice as alive as
Insights into life from post WW2 to approx 2010, UK.
Reflections on ageing, relationships, parenting.
You don't need me to tell you she is a wonderfully skilled writer and a woman of achievement. The pieces on her loss of a pregnancy when she had finally decided she really wanted a child this time was very moving [previous abortions had not caused her heartache.] Also revealing was her description of some of the facets of her relationship with a partner she did not live with. Then there was her de
Elizabeth Brookbank
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh, how I loved this. Loved it even more than her other memoir that I raved about. There is something about her that I relate to so deeply; her writing speaks straight to my soul. On everything from childhood memories to family to relationships (or lack there of) to motherhood (or lack thereof), she is wise and comforting and inspirational and funny and non-conforming - all the good things. I could go on, but I won't. Just read her.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
As I get older I find myself thinking more and more about the short time we have and about whether or not I'm using my time wisely. When considering these questions I believe it is immensely useful to learn from those who are farther down the road. Seven years ago I read Athill's first memoir, Somewhere Towards the End , written when she was 91 and focused on how things like her sex drive, her reading habits, etc. had changed as she aged. Now at the age of 98, Athill has given us this book of es ...more
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's not often you have the opportunity to read a book written by a 97 year-old. I am old enough, even at just 67, to understand the author's comment that although there are increasing limitations on a physical level as one gets older, there are new pleasures that balance them. One is memories -- there are so many memories, and the time and perspective to string them together into one's own story. I wish I knew Diana Athill, I think she must be a fascinating person to talk to. There is no 'plot' ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. Short, but I stretched it out so that I could spend as much time as possible with the delicious writing, so British, but in the warmest way possible. I heard about this book because it was on NPR's list of best books of 2016 and I'm so glad I did. The author is 100 and looking back at special moments from her life... Some are sweet, some are harrowing, but all are lovely and reveal hidden depths, whether about her grandparents' garden, a miscarriage, or the revolution in Toba ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bbc4-books
My fastest read in ages and thats because its so good. A collection of essays, meaning you can never get fed up of any subject.
Varied and full of life, from childhood, lovers, war, death, pregnancy and a like.
Diana has lead a true and womderful life and has a great storytelling way of phrasing her essays. I have fallen in love with her and her look on life.
Diana I salute you!
Kelly Furniss
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Listened to on Radio 4 as the Book at Bedtime choice. Stephanie Cole reads the collection of essays by Diana Athill.
We follow Diana's life, the ups and downs and life changing events that define her and we hear her opinion on a range of subjects including the War and liberation. So wonderfully descriptive you don't have to be a fan of her work to enjoy this thought provoking memoir.
Faith McLellan
Feb 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
I have enjoyed all of Diana Athill's books and hope she will publish her correspondence with Jean Rhys. This book is more of a hodge-podge than the others, but if you're still writing lively, honest prose at age 100, who cares?
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely wonderful memoir; as I head into my 6th decade I can only hope to reach my 9th with the same optimistic, and realistic perspective as Athill. So glad I read a short review of this book and got it from the library, was not familiar with Athill, plan to read her other memoirs.
Lisa Edwards
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is my first Diana Athill - who seems to have lived a life I want for myself, independent and free - and now I want to read everything she's written.
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Diana Athill was a British literary editor, novelist and memoirist who worked with some of the greatest writers of the 20th century at the London-based publishing company André Deutsch Ltd.

She 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

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“Look! Why want anything more marvellous than what is.” 3 likes
“My two valuable lessons are: avoid romanticism and abhor possessiveness.” 2 likes
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