Regrets, I’ve had a few

<strong>Somewhere Towards the End</strong>

Diana Athill <em>Granta Books, 192pp, £12.99</em>

“So here I go, into advanced old age, towards my inevitable and no longer distant end,” writes Diana Athill in this memoir. Now aged 90, Athill gives us insight into the twilight years of life in a society firmly focused on youth.

Athill is a former literary editor of writers such as Philip Roth and V S Naipaul who worked at the publishing house André Deutsch in its heyday. The book details her career, but more fundamental to the narrative are Athill’s personal relationships, often purely sexual and frequently complex.

Although she is evidently extremely liberated for both her gender and her generation, Athill’s reflections may not immediately seem representative of someone her age. But she also writes of the humble pleasures of gardening and drawing, the pains of sore feet and the boredom of caring for another, as well as pondering the possible manner of her death. What sets her apart is the flagrancy and wit of her writing.

Despite the confidence that comes from having a successful career and the freedom from sexual guilt, there are also traces of regret and lapses in self-belief. Athill describes the book as a story of “falling away”. It is anything but: her memoirs display a vivacious appreciation of the life she has lived and what is still to come.

This article first appeared in the 28 January 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Merchant adventurer