Letters to a Friend by Diana Athill

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“What a feast. Diana’s work compels me. . . . She’s got her teeth into life!”—Alice Munro

Diana Athill is one of our great women of letters. The renowned editor of V. S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, and many others, she is also a celebrated memoirist whose Somewhere Towards the End was a New York Times bestseller and a National Book Critics Circle Award winner. For thirty years, Athill corresponded with the American poet Edward Field, freely sharing jokes, pleasures, and pains with her old friend. Letters to a Friend is an epistolary memoir that describes a warm, decades-long friendship. Written with intimacy and spontaneity, candor and grace, it is perhaps more revealing than any of her celebrated books.

Edited, selected, and introduced by Athill, and annotated with her own delightful notes, this collection—rich with Athill’s characteristic wit, humor, elegance, and honesty—reveals a sharply intelligent woman with a keen eye for the absurd, a brilliant turn of phrase, and a wicked sense of humor. Covering her career as an editor, the adventure of her retirement, her immersion in her own writing, and her reactions to becoming unexpectedly famous in her old age—including gossip about legendary authors and mutual friends, sharp pen-portraits, and uninhibited accounts of her relationships—Letters to a Friend describes a flourishing friendship and offers a portrait of a woman growing older without ever losing her zest for life.

About Diana Athill

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Diana Athill’s New York Times bestseller, Somewhere Towards the End, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The author of several memoirs, including Instead of a Letter and After a Funeral, Athill lives in London.
Published April 16, 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company. 349 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Athill (Somewhere Towards the End, 2009, etc.) spent most of her career as a highly respected editorial director for London publisher André Deutsch, propelling the careers of notable writers such as Margaret Atwood, Jean Rhys and Philip Roth.

Mar 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Friend

Publishers Weekly

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Only one side of the 30-year correspondence between longtime British author Athill, an editorial director at Andre Deutsch, and the American poet Edward Field is conveyed here, while the absence of Field’s replies are not adequately explained.

Feb 06 2012 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Friend

Washington Independent Review of Books

Diana Athill, a renowned literary editor in London for nearly 50 years, published her first book, a memoir, when she was in her mid-40s.

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San Francisco Chronicle

If it hadn't been for you and your wickedly generous kindness to me I'd have had no more than a nice time - the wonderfulness lay in your making me 'family' ...

May 20 2012 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Friend


Of the two genres, Athill on Athill is by far the most successful, possibly because Athill is more interesting than her friends.

Oct 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Friend

Shelf Awareness

"The status quo is good for the big guys, but when it starts to break down, opportunity is created for small companies like mine.

Apr 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Letters to a Friend


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