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At Seventy: A Journal

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  492 ratings  ·  64 reviews
May Sarton—poet, novelist, and chronicler—occupies a special place in American letters. This new journal chronicles the year that began on May 3, 1982, her seventieth birthday. At her home in Maine, she savors “the experience of being alive in this beautiful place,” reflecting on nature, friends, and work. “Why is it good to be old?” she was asked at one of her lectures. “ ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 17th 1987 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1984)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this on my mother’s 70th birthday: August 7, 2017. Sarton started writing it on her 70th birthday: May 3, 1982. Many of the book’s themes were familiar to me from other Sarton journals I’ve read: her acceptance of aging and the sense that she has become more herself over the years; the joy she takes in her pets, gardening and visits from friends; the tyranny of her correspondence; and the fleeting nature of the muse, who is sometimes an abstraction and sometimes a very real per ...more
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second May Sarton journal I've read and I have to say I'm growing quite fond of her. Admittedly, I'm haunted by the thought that she wouldn't like me very much, that she would find my fidgety, foolish youth cloying to spend time with. May Sarton makes me long to be wise and 'old' and therefore "more myself than I have ever been".

I always have to smile when she writes things like:
"For the first time in weeks I have three whole days to myself, and it is heaven not trying to take in an
Cindy Jacobsen
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I've been slogging through this book off and on for a month. I love journals, personal growth, day-to-day living, but this book was a disappointment. How many lunches/dinners/rainy days/"I need to be alone"/"I am alone"/I need to be alone/I had lunch with...etc ... can one write about? I had really looked forward to this based on other reviews, but it did not speak to me. I am approaching my sixtieth year and understand milestones; this was not a book that offered any depth. To be fair, her desc ...more
Linda Robinson
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A friend recommended this book of the many Sarton tomes she's read, and I'm glad she did. Quite personal, and I felt like a welcomed friend invited for the weekend. It's a comfort to know that I may perhaps look forward to more serenity and appreciation of beauty as I approach 70, even though the garden will be more of a challenge. A lovely walk by the shore with an accomplished writer.
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although May Sarton would have wanted to be remembered for her poetry and the novels she wrote, today she is probably best known for her journals. I discovered them when I was a young woman in my late twenties and was captivated by the way she wrote about her solitary life, her love of nature and beautiful things, the relationships she valued, her ability to pay attention to the significance of what often gets overlooked, and the joys and struggles of the creative life. When I first read “At Sev ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Although I love gardening and noting the weather, her journal wandered too much back to the same places: her visiting friends and admirers, her garden, and the weather. At the halfway point, nothing remarkable had happened and no huge "ah-has" I kept a paper and pencil handy to write down pithy observations on growing older, but what I mainly got was repetition of the same routine.... That is okay for me, but not interesting enough to read about. I'm switching to Gloria Steinem's book, Doing Six ...more
Aug 05, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Read this when you are about to turn 30, and 40, and 50, and so on.
Oct 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Boring, self indulgent book.
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
another beautifully written journal by May Sarton. ‘At Seventy: A Journal’ got into my heart like ‘House by the Sea’ did. it’s so moving to read about May getting older & all the emotions involved. the death of Judy, her love for daffodils & New England, the struggle to keep up with writing letters, her new muse & of course Tamas and Bramble. such a delightful & insightful read. 5/5 ☆ ...more
I started the series of journals with the second installment Journal of a Solitude, covering one of her last years in NH; she makes the decision to move to ME during that time. There's a section in this one dealing with some NH folks who were covered in the first book Plant Dreaming Deep, so I was mildly concerned that I hadn't read that one earlier, but no big deal. I had been going to college in Maine during the period covered here, and don't recall the weather as having been as severe as she ...more
Aug 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So apparently, I want the life of a semi-retired poet/writer. To garden, take walks, OWN A HOUSE BY THE SEA, correspond with my many admirers and friends, travel and read my poems to appreciative audiences. Better get on that whole "writing" thing then.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
At seventy-two, it's time for me to read this again. I have read several of her journals and they all make me so happy that I moved to Maine.
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
May Sarton wrote of herself as a literary outsider and I have not known anyone else who reads her. I read many of her novels and journals, including this one, over 30 years ago. And, re-reading this now, I am anxious to read and reread more. From her I get a longing to think deeply and to center myself. I feel the urge to read thoughtfully and to use my own creativity. She doesn't tackle world problems, in general, though she mentions them, but she looks inward and to her friends. Her writing so ...more
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
December 2016 - I love May Sarton’s journals. I’ve read several of them over the years, and each one was perfect for a particular time in my life. At Seventy records Sarton’s life and thoughts throughout her seventieth year. Although I’m not yet seventy, I could definitely relate to many of her thoughts and experiences with aging. I especially loved her descriptions of her garden and life on the coast of Maine. The intimacy and the ordinariness of her writing always gives me the feeling that she ...more
Donna Lee
May Sarton was a poet, novelist and memoirist, though now she is probably best known for her memoirs/journals. There were parts of this book that did not speak to me, specifically how she needed to manage her time in order to feed her muse; however I immensely enjoyed her descriptions and enjoyment of the nature and wildlife...and her love of gardening. It was all-in-all a leisurely time spent with this book.
Sep 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
A lovely book about a writer's daily life at the age of 70. Maine's rugged climate plays a major role, and Sarton makes huge efforts to have a lovely flower garden in the very brief summer. I was amazed at how MANY visitors she had, and how many times a year she flew or drove to places to sign books or give talks.

At first I wasn't certain I wouldn't get bored, but soon I was enchanted. I think she tried to give as honest a picture as she could of her life in that year. She says she craves solit
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
May Sarton's sensitivity and independence, her devotion to the art of poetry and novel, her friendships with women, her passion for gardening on the coast of Maine, all add up to a fascinating read by a woman who decided to choose a life of literature and sometimes felt a clash between obligation to others' needs and her own need to create. She describes the political conflicts of the 1980's as well.
Stacey Lozano
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
May Sarton lets us into her seventieth year of life. I was intrigued by the idea, and it was interesting to read her thoughts, ideas, and actions from that time. I got to know her and her writing process better, though the process was not the main focus. The main focus was simply getting through her days, but she was as busy and constant as ever.
Joyful Mimi
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I’m a Sarton fan & still plan to read all her books.I relate to much of her life perspective & the journal includes gems of wisdom. But, her behavior during this year bothered me. She seemed to lack insight into her actions, doing the same things over and over that bothered her & then complaining about it. Guess she was honest but I wanted to pull her aside & say: “Why do you keep this up?” ...more
Claudia Douris
Aug 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
Another gem by Ms. Sarton!!! I could read her forever!!!!
Jayne Yenko
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
excellent, very insightful
Apr 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can only hope to be this vital and perceptive at seventy. I kept boggling at the amount of letter writing Sarton did.
Jun 27, 2012 rated it liked it
A lovely journal of beautiful thoughts about peacefulness, the joys of gardening and friendships, much like the way a sophisticated Grandmother would talk.
Susan Maldrie
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
what can I say, I love May Sarton.
Kristine Manwaring
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I read it wondering what life will be like when I am old...
Feb 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Torching read... A slice out of a warmhearted woman's life. Except...
She sure didn't like President Reagan. Probably would like our socialist Obama better.
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Enjoyed her "Journal of a Solitude" very much and found this interesting as well.
Carolyn Pina
Aug 10, 2015 rated it did not like it
I didn't finish this book. I really enjoyed her book, Plant Dreaming Deep, but sad to say, thumbs down on this one.
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was ok
Just couldn't get into it. Not s gardener, and I wasn't that interested in her friends.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Insight into life at seventy~
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May Sarton was born on May 3, 1912, in Wondelgem, Belgium, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938. An accomplished memoirist, Sarton boldly came out as a lesbian in her 1965 book Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Her later memoir, Journal of a Solitude, was an account of h ...more

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“In the middle of the night, things well up from the past that are not always cause for rejoicing--the unsolved, the painful encounters, the mistakes, the reasons for shame or woe. But all, good or bad, give me food for thought, food to grow on.” 82 likes
“The hardest thing we are asked to do in this world is to remain aware of suffering, suffering about which we can do nothing. Every human instinct is to turn away. Not see. It is, I’m afraid, exemplified by Reagan who refuses to imagine the suffering of twelve million unemployed and the degradation of men and women who are deprived of work and treated in this country like pariahs.” 4 likes
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