Diana Athill: memoirs for the sophisticated spirit

It’s been a while, dear blogging friends, but Ofglassandbooks is back with a heartfelt review of STET by Diana Athill. Take your time when settling down for your read: preparation is key! An armchair, a blanket, a steaming cup of tea and – depending on your age and eyesight – a pair of comfortable reading glasses, and you are ready to turn the pages of beauty: beautiful prose, flawless paragraphs and a calm narrative will soak up your attention for hours.

STET is split into two parts. The first one describes the birth of a publishing house in post-war London that Athill joined under the enthusiastic and determined (tyrannical?) leadership of her charismatic friend Andre’ Deutsch. The second part is an account of a few of the authors that Athill worked with as an editor, their true nature, the relationship they built as books were spurned and published. Do I have a preference between the two parts? Predictably no, I don’t. I would have probably re-read Part one, if I didn’t have to return the book to my local library, but this is because of how interesting I find the art of editing and publishing, which Athill reveals to the reader in colourful and candid paintbrushes. Granted, the publishing world has changed, as Athill herself admits, but some of the basics of an editor’s job, such as working with agents, instinctively knowing that a book deserves to emerge out of the slushpile and into the limelight of booksellers, and advising authors on text issues, are as contemporary as ever.

I owe STET an even greater debt than that of the joy of reading it: it revived in me the love of memoirs, much to the benefit of Waterstones – my favourite bookshop – and my local library, which needs patrons at such sad times of libraries closure. The pile of memoirs stacked on my bedside table is precarious in height and eclectic in style: more Diana Athill; John Le Carre’; Bruce Sprinsteen; Alan Bennett; Moby (now, that was a surprise!); Paul McCartney: Karl Uve Knausgaard. But STET is the ONE. There are books that request speed-reading, and this is not amongst those. Skip your yoga class and pick up this book instead. You won’t regret it!

Any memoirs you wish to recommend?

All the best,



About ofglassandbooks

Who, me? A fan of good reads and glass jars experiences; budding fiction writer in the very little and spare time available...
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