Instead of a Letter


By Diana Athill

cover image of Instead of a Letter

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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.”
Instead of a Letter