Somewhere Towards the End

Somewhere Towards the End

by Diana Athill


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Winner of the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography and a New York Times bestseller: a prize-winning, critically acclaimed memoir on life and aging —“An honest joy to read” (Alice Munro).

Hailed as “a virtuoso exercise” (Sunday Telegraph), this book reflects candidly, sometimes with great humor, on the condition of being old. Charming readers, writers, and critics alike, the memoir won the Costa Award for Biography and made Athill, now ninety-one, a surprising literary star.

Diana Athill is one of the great editors in British publishing. For more than five decades she edited the likes of V. S. Naipaul and Jean Rhys, for whom she was a confidante and caretaker. As a writer, Athill has made her reputation for the frankness and precisely expressed wisdom of her memoirs. Now in her ninety-first year, "entirely untamed about both old and new conventions" (Literary Review) and freed from any of the inhibitions that even she may have once had, Athill reflects candidly, and sometimes with great humor, on the condition of being old—the losses and occasionally the gains that age brings, the wisdom and fortitude required to face death. Distinguished by "remarkable intelligence...[and the] easy elegance of her prose" (Daily Telegraph), this short, well-crafted book, hailed as "a virtuoso exercise" (Sunday Telegraph) presents an inspiring work for those hoping to flourish in their later years.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393338003
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 12/07/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 78,251
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

After a distinguished career as a book editor, Diana Athill (1917—2019) won the National Book Critics Circle and Costa Biography Awards for her New York Times best-selling memoir Somewhere Towards the End. In January 2009, she was presented with an Order of the British Empire.

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Somewhere Towards the End 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
JoeyCS More than 1 year ago
A review of this book would definately depend on the age of the reader. Those over 55yr would relate & completely understand some the writers references, but younger readers may only feel compassion for the aging woman. Either way it is well written & you often forget the age of the author. I liked her personality and hope I am that literate at her age!!
Peddada More than 1 year ago
A Magnificently Wise Memoir I cannot presume to review the ultimate reviewer. It is with deep humility that I offer only a personal recommendation on this magnificently wise memoir. Diana Athill writes her memoir with brutal candor, brevity and poise about the inevitable, a destiny reserved for everyone. Her prose, lyrical and sanguine, fashioned upon the editorial anvil that has polished the likes of V.S. Naipaul, thwarts all sentimentality and romanticist propensities. She paints her trials and tribulations of aging into a mirror, in which we see ourselves. It is a catharsis on her sexuality with impish admissions, and the acceptance of sexual dissolution as she travels past the point of no return in her late middle-age. Writing about utterly personal experiences is a sign of comfort with self; particularly, all those weaknesses that the rest of us spend our life trying to keep in the closet. Here in this book, she expounds on the virtue of acceptance of these foibles that we all possess and live fulfilling lives. The book is replete with nuggets of wisdom on various experiences from sexuality, caring for others and their medical maladies, parents' mortality, independence and driving, creative work, having no children to gardening distractions, and most of all, the morality of living. Memoir is a favorite format of mine, especially in the first person. A deft writer like Ms. Athill can open the doors and give us a privileged peek into the labyrinths of her personality and her life. The murky depths of personal experiences of others often reflect our own ironies and offer a comforting affirmation and corroboration of the path we all will follow. Here the author, a lifelong editor of manuscripts and purveyor of proper usage, illustrates her insecurities and inadequacies in an earnest, unadorned and unpretentious prose, interestingly rendering herself strong and content, ready for the last station in life. It is a poignant, yet joyous read in celebration of what we are, and not what we aught to be. I recommend this wonderfully enlightening memoir with utter sincerity. Raju Peddada
jlhorres on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The relationships and events that shaped the author's life weren't as interesting as the priceless nuggets of wisdom she gleaned from them and shared throughout her book. It was a quick enjoyable read with a lasting impact. Loads of insight.
realbigcat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the better memoir books I have read. Diana Athill 89 at the time of this writing is refreshingly frank and very clear witted. She lays it all out on the line and frankly discusses sex, death, relationships, relgion and more including her atheism and interracial relationships. Her charming and beautifully written book makes you feel like you would want to be her friend. I enjoyed it very much.
TimBazzett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I think what I liked best about this book is its absolute frankness. Athill has nothing to hide. She knows she has done certain things in her life that are perhaps less than admirable or honorable, and that she can be, and often is, quite selfish. So what? She cites the example of 103 year-old Alice Herz-Sommer, also a professed atheist, who said -"We are born half good and half bad - everybody, EVERY body. And there are situations where the good comes out and where the bad comes out. This is why people invented religion, I believe." Athill does admit to having some regrets, but refuses to dwell on them. She is simply grateful for the life she has had and amazed that she's lucky enough to still be here. Which makes sense to me. After more than fifty years as an editor in the publishing business, Athill became a successful memoirist in her seventies and eighties. And she makes no bones about her joy at this: "... easily the best part of my old age has been, and still is, a little less ordinary. It is entirely to do with having had the luck to discover that I can write." She goes on to tell how much enjoyment she has gotten from her late-found celebrity, however minor it might be. Having published my own first book at the age of sixty (and three more since then), I can relate. It's been a kick. This is a fascinating little book about growing old, and not at all sad or negative. I'm glad I found it, and plan to pass it along now to my mother, who at 93, is a year older than Diana Athill. I'm sure she'll like it too. Who knows, maybe it will nudge her into writing more about her own life. I hope so. Go for it, Mom.
BinnieBee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed in this book. I was hoping for a little insight as to how the elderly (89 in the writer's case) felt about their life and their eventual death. This woman may have been very successful in her career as an editor but to have affair after affair with married men, citing the relief that someone else was "taking care" of the men's daily care and needs and then end up living in a platonic relationship for 40 years with a has-been-lover only to nurse him in his bedridden state...ironic really. But you feel toward the end that she got what she deserved in the end: exactly what she'd avoided her entire life, responsibility and care of another human being.
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another book I wanted to like more than I did. For some reason, I seem to read many books on the end of life. I suppose I'm trying to understand what it's like to lose a parent and what it's like for the person facing the end of life, even if they are not ill. Athill answers these questions. Parts of it I found very compelling. She is a strong and compelling woman. What I found lacking was an emotional resonance.
archipelago6 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Diana Athill¿s award winning meditation on growing old takes a conversational tone. Mixing anecdotes from her childhood, young adulthood and middle-age with descriptions of her life as it is now (in her early nineties), she creates a kind of guidebook for all of us who will live and grow old. As I read, I immediately thought of a number of family members, particularly women in their sixties, who I could recommend this to. It is not a depressing book (as one might imagine from the subject matter), in fact it can be quite reassuring in the way that Athill explains how she continues to derive pleasure in her life. Although her opinions can at times seem imperious (and self-serving) ¿ particularly when it comes to the infidelities that she has taken part in ¿ there is much to recommend this book.
NewsieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book engendered lively discussion at our non-fiction group yesterday (5/4/210). Even the men in the group liked it, which surprised me a bit -- they tend to pooh-pooh "women's books." Our discussion covered sex, death, relationships between men and women, marriage, compromises in relationships, religion and atheism, the afterlife, children ... on and on. I thought the book was a perfect demonstration of the difference between biography and memoir ... with Somewhere Towards the End being more "stream of consciousness" than biography. We all found Ms. Athill interesting despite her being more than a bit self-absorbed. What a life she's had!
mlanzotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Diana Athill's memoir is a sparkling and funny look at some of her life and her thoughts about different subjects:infidelity,marriage,religion and friendship. She was 89 at the time of writing this book so her thoughts on old age are especially poignant.
Schmerguls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this because it won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle award for autobiography. The author was an editor with a publisher in London till she retired at 75. In the earlier part of the book she tells at length of her sexual life. She never married but took up with, at timee, men married to other women and appaently thinks this was omething which was admirable and her readers would want to know about.. In the later part of the book she talks of various interests, and of gardening, driving, and vicissitudes of aging, and some of this was felicitouly done and of interest, but all in all the book did not entrance me.
michaelbartley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There are parts of this book that are moving and very insightful, other parts seem to drag. I like that someone wrote about the harsh reality that our existance will end or at best be transformed. I must say Julian Barnes did a better job of it in his memoir Nothing to be Frighten Of. Still Ms. Athill is a honest writer that does face her dying with courage and dignity. It was well worth reading
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As I get older (and closer to Ms. Athill's age), I find that some of the basics of life are more perplexing than I thought they were when I was younger. This memoir was delightful to me because the author is quite candid about her flaws and perceptions, and I found that, really, a lot of what she has to say is very relevant. Each chapter is its own secular story or remembrance, so this is not a diary or a full-life memoir. It is more a commentary on aging and how things change the older we get.
bobbieharv on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting memoir that was a bit too distanced from her feelings to really grab me. Remembrances of her life and lovers in a slightly odd dispassionate style. On the other hand, I hope I can write this well if, and when, I'm 89.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice to read a more mature perspective from over the hill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont know what I'd expected, but certainly not this. I'm grateful I didn't spend more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can add nothing to the review herein by Mr Padada; it is spot on. I'll go on to read her other Nook books now.
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