A Life of My Own

A Life of My Own

by Claire Tomalin


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Esteemed biographer and legendary literary editor Claire Tomalin's stunning memoir of a life in literature

“[An] intelligent and humane book…There is genuine appeal in watching this indomitable woman continue to chase the next draft of herself." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

In A Life of My Own, the renowned biographer of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and Thomas Hardy, and former literary editor for the Sunday Times reflects on a remarkable life surrounded by writers and books. From discovering books as a form of escapism during her parents' difficult divorce, to pursuing poetry at Cambridge, where she meets and marries Nicholas Tomalin, the ambitious and striving journalist, Tomalin always steered herself towards a passionate involvement with art. She relives the glittering London literary scene of the 1960s, during which Tomalin endured her husband's constant philandering and numerous affairs, and revisits the satisfaction of being commissioned to write her first book, a biography of the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. In biography, she found her vocation. However, when Nick is killed in 1973 while reporting in Israel, the mother of four put aside her writing to assume the position of literary editor of the New Statesman. Her career soared when she later moved to the Sunday Times, and she tells with dazzling candor of this time in her life spent working alongside the literary lights of 1970s London. But, the pain of her young daughter's suicide and the challenges of caring for her disabled son as a single mother test Claire's strength and persistence. It is not until later in life that she is able to return to what gave her such purpose decades ago, writing biographies, and finds enduring love with her now-husband, playwright Michael Frayn.

Marked by honesty, humility, and grace, rendered in the most elegant of prose, A Life of My Own is a portrait of a life, replete with joy and heartbreak. With quiet insight and unsparing clarity, Tomalin writes autobiography at its most luminous, delivering an astonishing and emotionally-taut masterpiece.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399562938
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/20/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 87,176
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Claire Tomalin is the author of eight highly acclaimed biographies, including Thomas Hardy and Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, which won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year Award. She has previously won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Hawthornden Prize, the NCR Book Award for Non-Fiction, and the Whitbread Biography Award. Educated at Cambridge University, she served as literary editor of the New Statesman and the Sunday Times (London). Claire Tomalin lives in London and is married to the playwright Michael Frayn.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introductory Note xi

1 A London Romance 1

2 States of Grace 28

3 Life Lessons 47

4 My Last School: Dartington Hall 71

5 Higher Education 82

6 Becoming a Tomalin 119

7 The Sixties 133

8 A Birth and Two Books 175

9 1973 196

10 Working Mother 214

11 1980 243

12 Sunday Times 254

13 Other Lives 284

14 Surprises and Discoveries 317

Acknowledgments 333

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A Life of My Own 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
My love of biographies that take place in England led me to this autobiography by author Claire Tomalin. I knew nothing of her existence previously, but was frankly lured in by her cover photo and the title of the book. My observations of Ms. Tomalin are that of a very intelligent, talented, confident and fiercely strong woman. She is now in her early eighties, but recounts quite thoroughly and beautifully a very full life from her parents' marital union up to the present. She is the daughter of a French writer (father Emile) and a British composer (mother Muriel). Claire graduated from Cambridge University with an English degree, and set about a literary career which was quite varied and fruitful. My favorite parts of the book were the "human" parts where she spoke of her romances, marriages, affairs and children. I loved reading about the house she and her husband purchased, which Claire lived in for forty years. Her memories of the neighborhood, its people and surroundings were quite enchanting passages to read, and I savored these. I also enjoyed reading about her less than perfect marriage to prominent journalist Nicholas Tomalin, her first husband. Together they had five children, although two met tragic ends and one was born with a physical disability. As I read this book, I marveled at this woman's strength in the face of unexpected losses, and her endless push to flourish in her journalistic career. Despite the chaos of what was happening in her personal life, she kept moving forward through literary jobs and book projects. She kept diaries throughout the decades which were crucial to recalling what's been a remarkable life. Although Claire has been literary editor on papers such as the Sunday Times, her first love is writing books. She was finally able to be a full-time author later in life. Ms. Tomalin has written thoroughly researched and successful biographies of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, among others. Her methods of research in preparation for writing biographies were laid bare, such as literally walking in the footsteps of her subjects. In summation, it was a pleasure reading this autobiography because of the fine writing style and interesting subject matter. Like some other biographies I've read where I know a lot about the subject already, I knew nothing about Claire Tomalin and found it a refreshing and interesting read. I wasn't always interested in the nuts and bolts of the lives of some of the biographies she was authoring, but I glossed over these and found the main subject of this autobiography fascinating in her own right. Thank you to Penguin Publishing Group who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.