I read about this wonderful woman author from London in someone else’s blog. I wasn’t familiar with her though I had heard her name. I jumped on line to our state library and found several of her books. The one I chose was Alive, Alive Oh!
It is a memoir published in 2015 of her times during WWI, WWII, the loss of her child at age 43 and then her decision to move into and her thoughts about moving into aged care.
Ms Athill was born in 1916 which means she turns 100 years of age this year. I enjoy reading books about older people. Especially women in their 90’s and beyond. I find it interesting that several women, including Sarah and Bess Delaney of Harlem, New York who lived to be 109 and 104 respectively and now Diana who will be a hundred never married, never had children and worked in careers of their choosing.
Do you think that could be the reason for their longevity? It always makes me laugh as though I am happily married we have never had children and I am sure I will live longer because of it. Mind you, that is only a personal opinion I generally keep to myself as most of my friends and close relatives have children. No more said.
Diana was a writer and worked in various jobs over the years usually related to the field of publication or writing.
Although she has had tragedy in her life she doesn’t seem to dwell on it long and enjoys a great deal of pleasure with little responsibility that the rest of us might consider important.
It makes one think if you live in a culturally productive city (London), have no children, friends who never or seldom see you in a negative light and jobs that you really enjoy on top of a successful writing career your life may be charmed. I know myself I don’t have the nature for such undirected pleasure but I do wonder about people who do.
I love structure, I love responsibility though don’t get me wrong I love my get togethers with friends who never judge, family most of the time and I had a job that gave me great satisfaction for the most part for almost 40 years.
We hear that variety is the spice of life but I wonder if too much spice is something we would all cope with.
Her memory talking about dealing with her pregnancy at age 43, unmarried and not having much money was interesting. None of that appeared to bother her. What really frightened her was telling her mother about the pregnancy. Mind you this was 1960. She talked casually about aborting two pregnancies previously as though it was as simple as walking down the street. The reason she did not abort this pregnancy was because she couldn’t decide whether she wanted a baby or not, she pushed the thought of all of it to the back of her mind and she didn’t want to go through the cumbersome position one must be in at the doctor’s surgery to have an abortion. She found that humiliating. She stopped her religious beliefs around age 15 so she didn’t have any religious guilt. She didn’t see abortion any different from the sperm not quite meeting the egg and talks about the difference between ridding a mass of cells and that scenario.
Many people, especially those who are firm believers in God would probably be upset towards her cavalier attitude towards abortions. However as I am a pro choice person and just don’t get involved in the decisions of others whether they accept abortion or not I just kept reading.
I enjoyed hearing about her trips abroad, in particularly Greece and later the Caribbean, Tobago to be exact. She did feel uncomfortable being one of the ‘have it all’ people dealing with the poverty around her. I enjoyed her discussions around the social topics.
Considering she was born in 1916 and never fit the model of growing up, giving up her educational success for home and hearth and children I enjoyed her will to live life as she wanted. She never talks about loneliness though I would think her string of married lovers might contribute to that more than she acknowledged. Though, who knows,maybe it didn’t. Perhaps that is my white middle class, midwest American upbringing talking.
She always talked of the English person as to dealing with unpleasantness or conflict as pushing it to the back of one’s mind and just moving forward. The stiff upper lip translated so to speak.
Having grown up in the United States where hearts are worn on sleeves and strangers know your life story in the time it takes to fly from Chicago to New Jersey I don’t relate much to stiff upper lip. Though I do find 30 years of life in Australia has tempered me somewhat.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was very good and she didn’t linger too much on any one topic. It was interesting hearing about her life around the world wars and I loved seeing what direction her life took at every twist and turn. She was blessed with many good friends. I find when one doesn’t have children of one’s own to discuss it is wonderful to spend time with other like minded people. Hearing about little Gracie’s toilet training or how they are doing in school wears thin after awhile. I could never have been a yummy mummy but it is fun to watch them in the cafes.
As always, each to their own and I enjoyed this book.