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Somewhere Towards the End

by Diana Athill

Publishers Weekly When it comes to facing old age, writes Athill, "there are no lessons to be learnt, no discoveries to be made, no solutions to offer." As the acclaimed British memoirist (who wrote about her experiences as a book editor in Stet) pushes past 90, she realizes that "there is not much on record on falling away" and resolves to set down some of her observations. She is bluntly unconcerned with conventional wisdom, unapologetically recounting her extended role as "the Other Woman" in her companion's prior marriage--then explaining how he didn't move in with her until after they'd stopped having sex, which is why it was no big deal for her to invite his next mistress to move in with them to save expenses. She is equally frank in discussing how, as their life turns "sad and boring," she copes with his declining health, just as she cared for her mother in her final years. Firmly resolute that no afterlife awaits her, Athill finds just enough optimism in this world to keep her reflections from slipping into morbidity--she may not offer much comfort, but it's a bracing read. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Noted British editor and writer Athill decided at 91 to have a go at writing about the process of getting old. In this refreshingly candid memoir, she traces some of the landmarks she has passed since her seventies faculties lost and gained, actions taken causing pleasure or regret. Her somewhat tardy discovery of adult-education classes led to a love of sewing, painting, and gardening, though dwindling energy finally curtailed that latter activity, much to her chagrin. Following a lengthy discussion of her lack of faith in an afterlife, which entails proceeding toward death without the support of religion, Athill recalls the deaths of her parents and grandparents, many of whom livedinto their nineties with their mental faculties intact, leading her to conclude she has inherited a good chance of going fairly easily. One regret is not having the courage to escape the narrowness of her pleasant, easily navigable life. She concludes with what she terms random thoughts choice pearls sparkling with dry wit for the reader to ponder, reflect upon, and perhaps assimilate.--Donovan, Deborah Copyright 2008 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.