Okay that's a bad taste pun based around Madonna's 1990s song.
This is a compelling read, my third Athill after Instead of a Book and Make Believe. This owes much to the second; it is a study of a neurotic personality. Athill seems drawn to these types on this evidence; through a controlling need to assist, an attraction to interesting, charismatic types, followed by an inability to cut loose due to her genteel upbringing? Who knows...
This account will chime with anyone who has been involved with a neurotic personality. Once you've done it once, you don't need to again, let's put it that way. This book allows you to say, 'I've got the T-shirt'... and is a cautionary tale therefore. I understand the account; you feel you to need to write it down to lay a trail of breadcrumbs as you descend into their all-ecompassing insanity. They suck the oxygen out of the room, there's never any break so it's hard to cut loose.
This is more engrossing than Make Believe, a study of a charismatic black would-be political figure. It doesn't end well. Sometimes it is tempting to be cynical about the author's account, but only towards the end. I think this is because Athill's prose is so spot on that it removes any need on the reader to interpret events, so one begins to look elsewhere. Her free habit of reading other people's diaries, even if it's sometimes with their consent, seems a bit odd. Though of course, after Didi's death, she would have retained all his accounts anyway, hence she can duplicate them. Anyway, an amazing psychological study let down only slightly by a sense, fashionable for the time, that it is all down to his lonely childhood, rather than the fact that some people are just born neurotic.