Morris, author of more than 40 books (most recently Battleship Yamato), offers a slim collection of 186 pithy diary entries that invite readers into her sunny, though sometimes dark, ruminations. With wit and just a bit of self-reproach, she addresses concerns about British politics (“The news from Westminster, concerning the future existence of one of history’s most fascinating constructions, just makes me yawn”), as well as her wife Elizabeth’s struggle with Alzheimer’s (“Kindness reconciles us still, even when she is at her most irritating”). Morris, now 92, writes of seeing another aging acquaintance at the grocery store: “I was foreseeing a tragedy that befalls millions of us, when we are obliged to realize, like Shakespeare’s Othello, that our life’s purpose is gone.” Though the pieces can meander, Morris is always self-aware, playfully interjecting comments (“You think I’m rambling rather?”) and forge a frank intimacy with the reader, evoking the patter of a coffee shop get-together (“What should I write about today, dear friends? Good or bad, virile or senile, there’s no life like the writer’s life”). Morris’s diary is a candid, enlightening take on contemporary life. (Jan.)
"In committing her ruminations to 320 entertaining pages, Morris creates a captivating image of a delightfully dotty elderly lady.... After closing the book, I felt bereft of Morris’s company and her chummy, conversational prose style."
"A splendidly quirky confection that mixes the trivial with the serious, like life.... Morris has a gift for picking out what seems only in retrospect to be obvious. Like all good diaries, this one benefits from the strengths of the form: the possibility of being (or sounding) spontaneous and impressionistic."
"Morris is one of Britain’s greatest living writers."
"This is vintage Morris – the mundane mingling with the majestic in a casual embrace, a regular walk quickened by Welsh military marches and stirring requiems. Like Michel de Montaigne, the seminal 16th-century essayist she deeply admires, Ms. Morris is a great expert at amusing herself, viewing her local stomping grounds as a lively source of theater.... Sublime."
"At the start of her 10th decade, Jan Morris was asked to write a diary of her thoughts. Day-to-day observations and experiences, mostly light, some weighty, others the expected ruminations of a versatile British author long celebrated for her histories and travel writing. Morris, now 92, undertook the task with some trepidation, not because of her age — she is doing quite nicely, thank you — but out of modesty: Why would anyone care? Well, we do. Especially when these brief, daily entries range so widely, from sharp, wistful or cranky to eccentric and grandmotherly."
"“[Morris] is the same age as Queen Elizabeth II and like that remarkable monarch she still seems, in her early 90s, to be completely engaged with the world, understanding of its foibles and appreciative of what life has to offer.... Reading these beautifully written pages, one is struck by the gentle note of lament they host.... In My Mind’s Eye is a lovely book, halfway between a diary and a volume of brief essays, a book that has a gentle, haunting tone. It will remind us of what a good, wise and witty companion Jan Morris has been for so many readers for so long.”"
"It is remarkable to be writing a book at 91, yet what grips is not so much her thoughts about the world (towards which she turns and turns away) but her sense of the rhythms of domestic life."
"The most purely charming thing I have read so far in 2019 is Jan Morris’s In My Mind’s Eye.... There is so much dash and verve in Morris’s sentences, so much personality, a generosity of spirit that is flavored by well-earned crankiness.... [S]o charming, so endearing, such an antidote to boredom.”"
"In My Mind’s Eye — a collection of mini-essays, written one per day over the course of many months — reveals that her writing is just as elegant and erudite, and her mind just as supple, playful, curious, rigorous, humorous and surprising as ever."
The nonagenarian historian and travel writer invites us into her private world with a mixed but amiable daily diary of her thoughts, observations, and reflections.
Morris (Battleship Yamato, 2018, etc.) does not dwell overmuch on the indignities and tribulations of old age; rather, she celebrates the fact that she is still alive and (mostly) kicking, taking pleasure in the grand and mundane in like measure. She does not mention being a pioneering transsexual, nor—since her traveling days are now few—her fame as one of our most accomplished travel writers and historians. Many of the entries are lighter than air, others nostalgic or wistful, chipper or gloomy, lilting and poetic, naïve or mildly cynical. Some deploy philosophical insights on the human condition and sharp assessments of current world events. The book moves from humor to veiled melancholy to sharply delineated sense of place, with some of the author's own sprightly verse for grace notes. While her chief subject is her home of 70 years, Wales, Morris definitely has some bees in her bonnet. Whatever pops into her head gets equal time, from Brexit and agnosticism to the abomination of zoos, the malleability of memory, the better angels of Britain's imperial era, the U.K.'s current malaise, her special affection for the United States, the intimate presence of the books in her personal library, the horrors of the daily news, the spellbinding mysteries of birds, and the seductive traps of ego. There's also an ode to Montaigne, asides on her longtime companion Elizabeth, a dissection of monarchical absurdities, an appreciation of technological advancements, an accounting of the marvelous menagerie of keepsakes in her home, and an elegy for the changing nature of the English character.
Though some pieces begin jauntily but fade into irrelevance, Morris generally keeps readers engaged, as she has done successfully for decades.
Acclaimed Welsh author Morris (Pax Britannica trilogy) provides a collection of reflections that begins in the early part of her career, when she gained renown as a correspondent covering the first British ascent of Mount Everest. Now in her 90s, Morris, herself a trans woman, wrote one of the first autobiographies addressing gender transition, Conundrum, in 1974. Here she covers topics ranging from her love of the Welsh countryside to her frustration with religion. She also expresses her overall dismay with the state of global politics. Morris often muses on the cruelty meted out by society, especially against animals and throughout appeals to all people to "be kind." VERDICT Candid, and often humorous, this take on the human experience will appeal to the author's many fans, as well as those interested in the wisdom of one who has traveled a remarkable path.—Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WA