A Life of My Own

by Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin is a writer who I would say I've long admired. I am fascinated by life writing, and memoirs in particular, and follow the careers of biographers with interest.

If questioned about her, then, I would say that I was very familiar with her work and would declare it enjoyable, authoritative and enlightening. Yet it seems I have only read one of her books - that of the life of Jane Austen.

I suppose I've read of her in reviews and interviews each time one of her biographies has been published, and I was aware that she was married to Michael Frayn, but I was shocked to learn of the many challenges and tragedies she has experienced in her personal life.

She writes with a quiet matter-of-factness, a seeming acceptance of the highs and lows of life, but also a reluctance to air any public sorrow, angst or emotion. It is a dignified and restrained account which is incredibly readable although she feels quite distant. 

Undoubtedly well-connected, Tomalin has taken advantage of the opportunities made available to her by responding with dedication, application and skill. She doesn't give any detail here about her own writing. She refers to the research and administrative side of publishing and journalism but not the triumphs and difficulties of the work itself.

She concludes by acknowledging that she is happiest now in her marriage and in her work, but I was left feeling rather sad at the lack of joy expressed in the book.

I was completely engrossed and read it very quickly, but this is a book I will turn to again - beautifully written in every sense.

Review date: September 2017
A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin