Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Late Night Treat

Diana Athill


It was a late night – 10.35pm – 11.35pm and I hadn’t managed a siesta, but my concentration only wavered twice: once on learning Diana had been diagnosed with cancer and once when a voice over said her sister was born as a result of an affair of her mother’s. The comforting thing is that Diana looks strong and well and her genes from her mother and grandmother should stand her in good stead.


It was all perfectly relaxed and as if one were really spending time with the author. Credit to the programme makers – what happens behind the camera is key to the whole atmosphere and Diana had said they were ‘honeys’. Alan Yentob – quietly deferential - encouraged her to let her memories flow with an occasional question to stimulate her thought process.


She is very good with people and captivated an audience in Bath as if she had been born in a trunk. Her wit is undimmed and in spite of hearing aids, bad feet and slight mobility problems she is what my first husband called ‘a ball of fire.’ She makes me proud to be of the same generation.


I do wish they would stop calling where she lives an ‘old people’s home’. Diana reckons you have to have read Proust and Kafka to be accepted. It really is a splendid place but – at present – there are no men. There was another kind of life class taking place where some of the residents – including Diana, were drawing a female model who was posing without a stitch.


My heart sank when Diana got into her rather battle scarred car. I had thought that after a terrifying accident on a drive to Norfolk she would no longer be driving. I’m hoping by now she has called it day.


I think I shall have to go back and re-read ‘Life Class.’ It is four books in one consisting of ‘Yesterday Morning’ about her idyllic childhood in Norfolk, ‘Instead of a Letter’ about her being jilted by her fiancée in the most heartless way, Stet about her life in publishing and ‘ Somewhere towards the End’ about getting old..


What impressed me most about Diana is her unflinching honesty; she tells us she read in her sister’s diary that her sister’s boyfriend had warned her against certain behaviour, ‘You don‘t want to end up like Diana,’ and her sister agreed that no she didn’t. Then again she tells us she read in a male friend’s diary that he has started to detest her and every thing she says or writes.

Diana’s mantra is to tell it ’just as it was.’

Whether you read the books separately or tackle the tome ‘Life Class’ give your self a treat and read Diana Athill.



16 comments:

savannah said...

i've put them on my wish list, sugar! i might have to purchase "Somewhere Towards the End" now. xoxoxo

Pat said...

Savannah: nonsense! Do let me know what you think if you read them but I expect - like most of us - your wish list is ever lengthening.xoxox

Leah said...

Pat, I just went and looked her up and read all about her as you piqued my interest very much. My wish list is non-existent and I pick up whatever interests me in the moment, and her works sounds really good! She is absolutely fascinating, especially her ill-fated romance with the younger writer...

Pat said...

Leah: the real trauma of her life was when her true love, Paul, her fiancee dumped her in the cruelest way; he was out of the country and she had months of making excuses for him in full view of family and friends. What she reminded me of was the humiliation one felt in those days and it was reminiscent of my own experience - the difference being that Diana's Paul was killed and mine reappeared after 30 years and proved, and is still proving he was my true love all along.

angryparsnip said...

Pat,
I too just Googled her and what a life. Such a strong person.
Is life Class one book or three separated books combined?

My reading list keeps getting longer.

cheers, parsnip

Pat said...

Parsnip: it is a book in four parts - selected memoirs.

Sharon Longworth said...

I was sorry to miss the programme - my beloved tells me it was great - I will try and catch it on i-player if it's there.
I love the idea of still driving around when everyone thinks I'm too old and too fragile to do so!

Pat said...

Sharon: I hope you get to see it. The thing about driving when you are old is you can be on level terms with the rest of the world despite disabilities but I no longer enjoy it.

Leni Qinan said...

Experience is the mother of wisdom, the say. I just hope the balance of her way towards the end is satisfactory.

((Thank you very much stopping by my blog and for your kindness and support.))

Pat said...

Leni: I have every faith in her indomitable spirit and her zest for life.

Eryl Shields said...

Ooh, I'm going to look for it now. I was an owl but have had a late conversion, I decided to try getting up early to write. Although I'm still not writing I wake every morning at about 6.30 which is confounding everyone who knows me!

Scarlet Blue said...

I am also intrigued - I will look her up.
Sx

Pat said...

Eryl: do let me know what you think of it.

Scarlet: you might end up reading her:)

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This sounds like it was a fabulous interview! I love that you share things like thios with us, Pat...I don't think I would know who she is at all, if it weren't for you, my dear. Thank You!

Pat said...

Naomi: thank you. There aren't that many good things to spread around so it is a pleasure when it happens;)

Eryl Shields said...

I really enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it so much I'm going to watch it again tonight after supper. She's brilliant, she said so many things that were inspiring on some level, and so down to earth.