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229 of 233 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real pleasure to read
I bought this book whilst staying in Scotland with my husband's 86 year old grandmother and spent many a happy hour curled up by the fire reading it. In fact, I read only little bits at a time, so that I could prolong the enjoyment! I was surprised to read the damning reviews when I logged onto Amazon to add my two cents, having just finished the book on a sunny Sunday...
Published on 11 Jan 2009 by MagicMary

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and dull
Others have clearly loved this book, judging by the number of five-star reviews, but I'm afraid I really didn't like it very much. I couldn't warm to Diana Athill, who came across as cold and unfeeling, or to her writing style which seemed to me to lack any warmth or humour.

Admittedly she is honest - about her absence of emotional attachment and about her...
Published on 1 Aug 2010 by Suzie


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229 of 233 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a real pleasure to read, 11 Jan 2009
By 
This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I bought this book whilst staying in Scotland with my husband's 86 year old grandmother and spent many a happy hour curled up by the fire reading it. In fact, I read only little bits at a time, so that I could prolong the enjoyment! I was surprised to read the damning reviews when I logged onto Amazon to add my two cents, having just finished the book on a sunny Sunday morning.

Though I did not relate to a lot of Athill's experience - having lived a very different life myself with an avid interest in monogamous love and motherhood - I admired her for having a strong sense of self at a time when women were often forced into loveless marriages and motherhood against their better judgment, because society expected it of them. What's more, she is not afraid to write about her convictions, though she knows that they will not be palatable to everyone - there's something about women who reject mothering that people still hold deep prejudices against (especially if the woman in question enjoys carnal pleasures for their own sake - shock horror!).

I think she has been accused in one of these reviews of not having truly loved another - she freely admits at the end of her book to a regret at having 'that nub of coldness at my centre' and bravely tells the story of her shameful disinterest in her cousin's young family. This is not the work of self-interest; she willingly reveals her faults and muses on her failings. It seems that at the age of 89, however, she has come to accept herself as she is...

I found her voice warm and witty and her life, being so different to those of her generation I had heard before (realistically, how many womens' voices of that generation do we hear?), fascinating. Her frankness and honesty about her sexual choices is so refreshing and empowering for other women.

Reading it whilst staying with an 86 year old was the real clincher for me though. I found myself comparing her sharpness and alert eye for detail with my dear relative's slightly fading one. Their life stories could not be more different - one chose marriage, children, grandchildren whilst the other chose books, lovers, friends - and I found myself amazed at Athill's incredible ability to tell a story at such a ripe old age! What an amazingly alert and astute mind!

Yes, it's short, yes, she chose a different life to that we expect a woman of her age to have experienced but it is truly a pleasure to read, and I whole-heartedly recommend it.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 8 Mar 2009
This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I read this in two days. I loved its simplicity and clear-sighted, rigorous honesty. It is a personal and interesting look at old age - including subjects not much covered, like sex and love and regret in old age. I loved it, and it helped to get a perspective. Athill clearly has a keen and real love for life, and her thoughts on her own life were simple, powerful and sparklingly insightful. Wonderful book
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She's done it her way!, 18 Feb 2009
This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I first read this book in 2008 and loved every page of it. How refreshing to share the thoughts and reflections of a woman who determined to manage her life in her own way, rather than following convention. Agreeing or disagreeing with Diana Athill isn't really the issue, just enjoy an honest and heart-warming story.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Woman!, 23 Jan 2009
By 
M. Klingenberg "romtarom" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I have 'stumbled' across Diana Athill in a Guardian interview the day before the Costa biography prize was announced. This interview made me root for Diana to win, even though I had previously not heart of her let alone read a line she'd written. When she won, I was delighted and THEN bought the book, such is the impression this astonishing woman leaves.
"Somewhere towards the end" is written with a warmth and an obvious intelligence that is a joy to read. Diana's thoughts on Sex, Art and life matters are interesting not only with regards to her age. She radiates a confidence that is never irritating; never arrogant. This book is a fulfilling read and I would unconditionally recommend its purchase.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and dull, 1 Aug 2010
By 
Suzie (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
Others have clearly loved this book, judging by the number of five-star reviews, but I'm afraid I really didn't like it very much. I couldn't warm to Diana Athill, who came across as cold and unfeeling, or to her writing style which seemed to me to lack any warmth or humour.

Admittedly she is honest - about her absence of emotional attachment and about her attitude to her mother's last days, for instance - but, morals apart, she seems rather obsessed by her sexual encounters as she refers to them even in chapters where they wouldn't normally feature.

The book has no particular structure, jumping from subject to subject, and often describing events and relationships from her earlier years. There's nothing wrong in reminiscing about the past, except that the blurb could give the impression that the book provides more of an insight into old age than it does.

There were sections that I enjoyed: a chapter about books, for instance, and another about her `irreligiosity' - an ugly word if indeed it is a word. She describes herself as irreligious yet brought up to adhere to Christian principles (although she seems to have ignored this where the seventh Commandment is concerned).

Maybe I was expecting something more akin to A Positively Final Appearance by Alec Guinness, which was witty and entertaining, and which I loved. Diana Athill's style seemed to me pretentious and flat, and her poetry is some of the most awful that I've ever read.

Its main merit is that it's very short, the nominal 182 pages condensed by the two blank pages that preface each chapter.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, although uneven, 5 May 2011
By 
P. Burnard (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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It is a measure of this book's controversy that it has stirred up so many, differing, reviews. It is certainly not a self-help book for the ageing, nor is it a standard biography. It is mercifully free of pop-psychology or suggestions that ageing somehow automatically confers wisdom (although Athill clearly has this in abundance).

I did not experience the 'coldness' that some other readers felt. Diana Athill lives a different life to the norm, breaks many conventions and clearly enjoys doing this. The book, itself, breaks many conventions. The style is sometimes uneven, moving from the chatty to the profound. The book does have quite a number of typos in it and - ironically - could have been better edited. Despite these issues, I found it a wonderful read.

I was saddened by some of the reviews here that somehow seem to imply that older people should not write about or particularly enjoy sex. I also feel that this forum is no place to air old, personal, grievances about the author.

I was left cheered by someone with a sharp intellect who has an ability to review her own life openly and honestly. I was left with the feeling I rarely get from reading a book, that this is someone I would love to meet and chat to. Athill is both pragmatic and enthusiastic, with a continuing curiosity about the world and about people. A refreshing book for those of us who are no longer particuarly young.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and insightful, 25 Oct 2009
By 
Mary Penwarden (Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I had had this book on my list to read for months but, despite the excellent reviews it had received on publication, had put off reading it, imagining that it would be depressing and that I would need to be feeling unusually positive to tackle it. In fact it was an insightful joy from beginning to end: funny, moving and candidly reflective. Diana Athill is clearly a woman whom it would be a privilege to know, and whose honest company would be a delight, whatever one's own age - or indeed hers.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting, 16 Aug 2009
By 
This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
I'm not sure I've read the same book as some other reviewers. Two relationships in twenty years is hardly what I'd describe as promiscuous. She discusses family and friends with a great deal of affection and admiration, while being honest about her own shortcomings. Unlike another reviewer, I found the story of the caring for her long term companion moving without being sentimental. I like the way she finds pleasure and interest in life while accepting its inevitable disappointments and loss. It's not a life changing book - but the clarity of the writing makes it special. And finally - some people have the impression it's all about the author getting her leg over all the time with married men. It isn't.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old age aint all bad, 30 Mar 2009
By 
D. J. Pilkington (Lytham St.Annes,England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
This book is so good that I immediately re-read it so that the pearls of wisdom would be firmly captured. Diana Athill,in her tenth decade and drawing on her experience, writes clearly and honestly about things which many of us are afraid to face head on. Sex,enjoyed with various lovers up to the age of seventy,cheered her up. When sex ebbs other things are clarified - her atheism,her understanding of the Universe.
Luck plays a part in the years prior to death and immediacy of dying - which can be "nasty". She deals with activities in old age and caring and being cared for. You feel better for her sharing her thoughts with you. She recommends books concerning her interest in the Industrial Revolution.Her discovery that she could write,late in life, made her a more rounded person as well as giving her much satisfaction.
Certain people - those affected by poverty,ill-health,unhappy childhoods or lack of education would not be touched by the book,she admits, but for many this book will help in the business of getting through old age.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars No regrets, 14 Mar 2009
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This review is from: Somewhere Towards the End (Paperback)
Intrigued by a review in the Daily Telegraph, my wife asked me to order this book. When the book arrived I was the first to read it. I have a bad habit of starting books and not finishing them, however this one I could not put down. I am quite a bit younger than the author but her honesty and clarity of thought I found inspiring. A real delight and a positive view on growing old.
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Somewhere Towards the End
Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill (Paperback - 4 Dec 2008)
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