Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill

Instead of a Letter by Diana Athill

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When Diana Athill, nearly forty-three and far from a household name, sat down to write Instead of a Letter, the first in her series of trailblazing memoirs, she was looking for an answer to the question “What have I lived for?” In this searching book, she recalls her child-hood on her grandparents’ magnificent estate, the teenage romance that was certain to lead to marriage, her university days coinciding with the Second World War, and the sudden dissolution of her engagement, a loss that became the defining experience of the next twenty years of her life. Athill is as forthright in confessing her faults as she is in celebrating her triumphs. “From this table, with this white tea-cup, full ashtray, and small glass half full of rum beside me,” she writes, “I see my story, ordinary enough though it has all been and sad though much of it was, as a success story.”


“Supple, frank, unafraid of contradictions, Athill’s literary voice has all the courageous intelligence one associates with a certain type of British writer but none of the chill. This [is] the author’s scrupulous reckoning of her own single and childless existence . . . her work in publishing and the thrilling discovery that she, too, could write.” —The New Yorker

"Athill writes elegantly about the shabby gentility of her childhood and her later career as a literary editor, but the drama here is in her frankness about the struggle to rebuild a personality taken apart by sadness.” —Susie Steiner, 
The Guardian

“The reader sees the transformation of the battered soul into a buoyant woman, open-minded and open-hearted.” —Hilary Mantel, 

Trade Paperback
Publisher: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1681376134
Pages: 224