Somewhere Towards the End is a 2008 memoir written by Diana Athill when she was 89 years old. It won both the Costa Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Now 98, she still writes. Her latest book was also a memoir, published last year.
from the back of the book:
Diana Athill, esteemed for the honesty and elegantly expressed wisdom of her memoirs, reflects openly, and sometimes with great humor, on the losses and occasionally the gains that age brings.quotes:
It is so obvious that life works in terms of species rather than individuals. The individual just has to be born, to develop to the point at which it can procreate, and then to fall away into death to make way for its successors, and humans are no exception to that whatever they may fancy. We have, however, contrived to extend our falling away so much that it is often longer than our development, so what goes on in it and how to manage it is worth considering.
Appearance is important to old women, not because we suppose it will impress other people, but because of what we ourselves see when we look in a mirror.
When I worry, it is about living with the body's failures, because experience has shown me that when that ordeal is less hard than it might have been, it is usually because of the presence of a daughter. And I have no daughter.
Whatever happens, I will get through it somehow, so why fuss? Now that I have attempted to assess my own attitude, that seems to be it.
I am not sure that digging out past guilts is a useful occupation for the very old, given that one can do so little about them. I have reached a stage at which one hopes to be forgiven for concentrating on how to get through the present.
The NYT quotes her explanation of why she wrote this:
“book after book has been written about being young, and even more of them about the elaborate and testing experiences that cluster round procreation, but there is not much on record about falling away.” Being well along in that process herself, she thought, “Why not have a go at it?”and goes on to say,
Yet Ms. Athill’s book is welcome and original because she is such a robust, free-thinking, nonmawkish presence on the page. She catalogs the indignities of old age while reminding us how much joy can be sucked out of a physically diminished life, joy that often comes from unexpected places.The Guardian says, "The book is about old age - illness, declining capabilities, caring or being cared for; few books on the subject manage to be amusing, but this one does." Kirkus Reviews has a positive review and closes with this: "Fiercely intelligent, discomfortingly honest and never dull."
The Telegraph says, "One of the delights of this book is that the author is clear-headed about ageing and never complains. In fact she feels grateful that these days a woman of her age has more freedom in the way she dresses than her mother did. Nevertheless she is quick to spot the indignities that age can bring."