She Would Have Preferred A Letter

October 14, 2010 // Filed under Uncategorized

Diana Athill starts Instead of a Letter with a reflection on her elderly grandmother’s death, noting that this woman had created a family, “a world for us,” but what of herself, asks the author, “a woman who had never had the chance, or had missed the chance, to create something like that?” So begins the author’s memoir which was first published in 1962 and reissued in 2010.
Instead of a Letter recounts Diana Athill’s youth, family life in the British countryside, and an ill-fated love affair begun at the age of 15 with an Oxford student and RAF member.  This passionate union was something momentous for young Diana. Apparently her lover felt otherwise because he left her with no explanation, marrying someone else before he died overseas.   Athill was unable to work through this tragedy, or at least to confront him about it. She writes, “The times when the pain was nearest to the physical – to that of a finger crushed in a door, or a tooth under a drill – were not those in which I thought ‘He no longer loves me’ but those in which I thought  ‘He will not even write to tell me that he no longer loves me.’
Memoirs and Coffee, a Bernardsville Public Library book group, will discuss this memoir on Tuesday, October 26th, at 10:30 a.m. The book group is open to new members and is facilitated by Pat Kennedy-Grant.  Please feel welcome to attend.

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