Instead Of A Letter

Diana Athill

Published: 6 October 2011
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 224 pages
ISBN: 9781847084286


Diana Athill's childhood was idyllic, brought up in the Norfolk countryside. Aged only fifteen, she fell in love with a young undergraduate. They travelled to Oxford, engaged to be married. Then everything fell apart in the cruellest possible way.

In this classic modern memoir, Diana Athill dissects the terrible consequences of loss and her struggle to rebuild a personality destroyed by sadness. Yet for all its unhappiness, Instead of a Letter remains a story of hope, written with the frank intelligence and lack of self-pity that have become the hallmarks of Athill's writing.

About the author

Image of Diana Athill

Diana Athill was born in 1917. She helped André Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill's distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet, which is also published by Granta Books, as are several further volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End, and Alive, Alive Oh!, the travelogue A Florence Diary, a novel, Don't Look at Me Like That, and a collection of letters, Instead of a Book. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She lives in London. More about the author


‘A model mix of clear-eyed analysis and deep, unashamed feeling’



‘Her first and still most perfect perfect book’ Carole Angier

‘I first came across Diana Athill when I was 17. I picked up her memoir, Instead of a Letter, attracted to its title. I was driven on by avid inexperience, sure that I could find out from Athill what life itself was not yet ready to tell me about love, sex and - most impressively - heartbreak. I admired her elegant vigour and control of words in contrast to the freedom with which she wrote about herself. She became, in my reading life, a friend’ Kate Kellaway

‘One certainly admires both her and this truly excellent book, which is a masterpiece of confessional literature’

‘The documentary of one woman's ordinary and yet, in her telling, wholly extraordinary life’ Erica Wagner

‘The reader sees the transformation of the battered soul into a buoyant woman, open-minded and open-hearted’ Hilary Mantel

‘This classic memoir ... well deserves another airing’

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