A Life of My Own

Claire Tomalin. Penguin Press, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-56291-4
Biographer (Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, etc.) and former Sunday Times literary editor Tomalin turns to her own life in this captivating and thorough memoir. Tomalin sets out to describe her “experience of the world,” beginning with what it was like to grow up in mid-20th-century England. Born in London in 1933, Tomalin had a sheltered childhood and was enthralled with books by Beatrix Potter. She was the daughter of composer Muriel Herbert and biographer Emile Delavenay, who once confided in Tomalin that he hated his wife at the time of Tomalin’s conception (they eventually divorced). This inauspicious beginning, however, thwarts neither her happiness nor her success, and Tomalin grows into a bright and charming young woman. In 1955 she married a well-known journalist, Nicholas Tomalin, who became the father of their five children (including a boy who died in infancy, a daughter who committed suicide, and a son born with spina bifida). In 1973 her husband was killed on assignment in Israel, and Tomalin buried “the ashes in the village graveyard, next to the grave of our baby son Daniel.” In London in the 1970s, Tomalin thrived amid a whirlwind of famous authors (among them, the young Martin Amis, with whom she has an affair). In her 50s, she concentrated on writing biographies, and she describes this period as the “happiest time” of her career. Tomalin’s memoir is a gracious, inspiring look at her family, colleagues, and friends. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 05/28/2018
Release date: 08/21/2018
Hardcover - 352 pages - 978-0-241-23995-7
Ebook - 978-0-399-56292-1
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-241-97483-4
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