Alive, Alive Oh! And Other Things That Matter
Booklist Reviews 2015 December #2
Ninety-seven-year-old Athill is not your typical assisted-living resident. She admits to slowing down and to seeking her new home so as not to burden friends, but a quick mind and vivid recall lie beneath that deceptive surface. Athill, the prize winning author of Somewhere towards the End (2008), plucks memories from her past, including those of her grandparents' lavish garden in the 1920s, the relief of VE day, the colonial divide in Trinidad, the loss of a pregnancy, and her lifelong affair with a married man. She also insightfully portrays her fellow residents. Athill writes beautifully, and her descriptions are precise and moving. As an avowed independent thinker, she doesn't shy away from politics or bucking society standards and makes no apologies for her choices. Instead, she celebrates being alive and vital well into her nineties. It's a slim book and far from a comprehensive look at the author's varied life. Rather, it offers an intriguing glimpse into mid-twentieth-century British intelligentsia and a reminder that the oldest of us have lots of stories to tell. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
PW Reviews 2015 November #5
Almost 10 years after the publication of Athill's memoir Somewhere Towards the End, she bestows upon readers another gift of her elegant glimpses back at many of her life's most memorable moments. In beguiling, evocative prose, she details her nostalgia for growing up on her grandmother's farm; her harrowing, ambivalent feelings around unexpectedly becoming pregnant in her 40s and living through a miscarriage; and her decision to move into a retirement home, where she discovers that "nothing is more valuable than being free to do whatever you are capable of doing." After her miscarriage, she's relieved that she won't have to tell her mother about the pregnancy, and also that she is alive—she realizes that she loved being alive so much that "not having died was much more important to me by far than losing the child." Looking back on her life, Athill declares that she is happy, sharing the two valuable lessons she's learned: steer clear of romanticism, and abhor possessiveness. Athill has a charming and captivating way with a story, and a graceful, plainspoken manner of revealing the humor, gravity, and momentary beauty of a life fully lived. (Jan.)[Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC