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  3. Claire Tomalin - Wikipedia

She does, though, look back with understanding. He was, she writes, in love again, and overwhelmed by guilt. But it is set against the fact that Tomalin has already buried a baby son, Daniel, and that her youngest child, Tom, has all sorts of complex needs, having been born with spina bifida. She is able to cope — perhaps because she has to cope — and not too long afterwards, she joins the New Statesman as literary editor. This is good for her, and she feels better. She buys an orange Volvo, has an affair with a year-old reviewer called Martin Amis she is 40 , and continues to write she has already completed her first biography, of Mary Wollstonecraft.

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You hope this is her break: that she will get to bask in the light, just a little. Only then… calamity.

Her second daughter, Susanna, until recently a student at Oxford, kills herself. Her mother finds her body, and feels — wrongly, but there it is — that she has failed.


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It is so plainly and beautifully told: a description, but not, as Tomalin notes, an explanation. Again, though, there is a rallying. However, when the paper abruptly moves to Wapping in , the better that its proprietor Rupert Murdoch might break the print unions, she resigns with a blistering letter to Neil to become a full-time writer. Some people may, Tomalin writes, find her career cheering, for she did not begin writing biographies, her true and prize-winning vocation, until she was nearly 40, and she was in her mids by the time she was able to concentrate on doing so full time.

Perhaps too, though she does not say this herself, some will take heart from the fact that she did not marry the playwright Michael Frayn, with whom she has found lasting happiness, until she was An affair with a younger writer brought fleeting joy; the suicide of her daughter brought infinite pain. Now married to playwright Michael Frayn, Claire reflects on an extraordinary life filled with love, loss, and literature.

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More Details Other Editions 7. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about A Life of My Own , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Thank you to Penguin Publishing Group who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss. My love of biographies that take place in England led me to this autobiography by author Claire Tomalin.

I knew nothing of her existence previously, but was frankly lured in by her cover photo and the title of the book. My observations of Ms. Tomalin are that of a very intelligent, talented, confident and fiercely strong woman. She is now in her early eighties, but recounts quite thoroughly and beautifully a Thank you to Penguin Publishing Group who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

She is now in her early eighties, but recounts quite thoroughly and beautifully a very full life from her parents' marital union up to the present. She is the daughter of a French writer father Emile and a British composer mother Muriel. Claire graduated from Cambridge University with an English degree, and set about a literary career which was quite varied and fruitful. My favorite parts of the book were the "human" parts where she spoke of her romances, marriages, affairs and children. I loved reading about the house she and her husband purchased, which Claire lived in for forty years.

Her memories of the neighborhood, its people and surroundings were quite enchanting passages to read, and I savored these.


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  • I also enjoyed reading about her less than perfect marriage to prominent journalist Nicholas Tomalin, her first husband. Together they had five children, although two met tragic ends and one was born with a physical disability. As I read this book, I marveled at this woman's strength in the face of unexpected losses, and her endless push to flourish in her journalistic career. Despite the chaos of what was happening in her personal life, she kept moving forward through literary jobs and book projects. She kept diaries throughout the decades which were crucial to recalling what's been a remarkable life.

    Although Claire has been literary editor on papers such as the Sunday Times, her first love is writing books. She was finally able to be a full-time author later in life. Tomalin has written thoroughly researched and successful biographies of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, among others. Her methods of research in preparation for writing biographies were laid bare, such as literally walking in the footsteps of her subjects.

    In summation, it was a pleasure reading this autobiography because of the fine writing style and interesting subject matter. Like some other biographies I've read where I know a lot about the subject already, I knew nothing about Claire Tomalin and found it a refreshing and interesting read. I wasn't always interested in the nuts and bolts of the lives of some of the biographies she was authoring, but I glossed over these and found the main subject of this autobiography fascinating in her own right.

    Claire Tomalin - Wikipedia

    View all 20 comments. Instead, this is a fairly straightforward — if sometimes restrained — autobiography ideal for readers of Diana Athill, David Lodge and John Carey thinking specifically of the li Tomalin is known as a biographer of literary figures including Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens.

    Instead, this is a fairly straightforward — if sometimes restrained — autobiography ideal for readers of Diana Athill, David Lodge and John Carey thinking specifically of the life stories all three have written in their eighties. They lived in Greenwich and Tomalin had her hands full with part-time work for publishers and newspapers as well as raising their four children one disabled with spina bifida. There were some jaw-dropping tragedies to come, but Tomalin is strangely matter-of-fact and unemotional about them all.

    She was a widow; he was unattached. The only reasons it might seem scandalous were that he was significantly younger and she was his boss. Tomalin also never divulges whether she and Michael Frayn were lovers as well as close family friends before his divorce came through. Pritchett, Beryl Bainbridge and Alan Bennett were all neighbors at one time or another.

    The glimpses of her working life were the best bits for me, and I was somewhat frustrated at her reticence elsewhere. But research is not all done silently at home, and is not always lonely. Another life is bound up with yours and will remain so for the rest of your own life — that at least is my experience.

    You have gone in too deep to cast them aside. View all 9 comments. Sep 11, Emma rated it really liked it Shelves: audible. I hadn't read anything of hers and probably wouldn't have been interested much in her life had I not happened to catch an interview with her talking about writing history and biography, particularly the sometime reaction to being female and attempting to write authoritative biographies of important men. Being immediately irritated by that notion, I had to find out more Thankfully, for the most part she seems to have been supported by both male and female friendships and connections the literary name dropping in this is incredible and certainly makes a bit of a case for 'it's who you know' and where you went to university, as much as 'what you know' , as well as maximising her own intelligence and drive, to become a celebrated biographer and prizewinner.

    Her life has been challenging in parts, full of change, and is retold here with honesty and heart. Some how it doesn't quite reach the apparent heights of her other writing, the prose is basic, almost list-like at times, and while I know so much more about the events of her life now, I don't feel like I know her.

    Even so, I will definitely be reading one of her biographies soon. A Life of My Own is well-written and mostly interesting and definitely delivers what it promises. If you read the publisher's description and think it sounds like something you'd like, you'll probably like it. Nov 27, Beth Bonini rated it really liked it Shelves: memoir , 20th-century-british , culture , london , books-about-books , marriage , family. I bought a copy of this book as soon as it came out, but I only read it after seeing Tomalin at the Cambridge Literary Festival this past weekend November Some of the anecdotes and funny lines in the biography were touched on in her hour-long interview, but I was surprised to discover that the theme she returned to again and again - the difficulty of being a mother and having a career - is not more analysed in her writing.

    I took notes as she was speaking, and looking back at them I see th I bought a copy of this book as soon as it came out, but I only read it after seeing Tomalin at the Cambridge Literary Festival this past weekend November I took notes as she was speaking, and looking back at them I see that I have written down the following: on career vs.

    On her mother, who was a talented pianist and composer: 'by choosing to have children, she dished herself as a composer'. And of the cataclysmic social changes of the s: 'we thought in the 60s we were making it easier for women, but nothing makes it easier'. I don't know if the reader will end up agreeing, though, as Tomalin presents a life that has been stuffed full of achievement and accomplishment. One of the most perceptive, and I think objective, comments Tomalin makes on her own life appears in the biography's 'Introductory Note': 'One thing I have learnt is that, while I used to think I was making individual choices, now, looking back, I see clearly I was following trends and general patterns of behaviour which I was about as powerless to resist as a migrating bird of a salmon swimming upstream'.

    One of these 'choices' was a very young marriage to Nick Tomalin who had been a friend at Cambridge. Their first child, daughter Jo, was born on Nick's 25th birthday in They were to have four more children together in a tumultuous marriage, before Nick died in He was killed by a Syrian missile while driving in the Golan Heights.

    Although Tomalin did bits and pieces of review work in her children's early years, it was not until her 40s and after her husband's death that she really began to work - as literary editor at the Statesman and then the Sunday Times - and also as a biographer. Her Mary Wollstonecraft was her first major biography, and published when she was Tomalin's early life was definitely not easy - her parents had a bitter divorce when she was very young, and for many years she was estranged from her father - but she doesn't dwell much on these scars.

    Both in the book and in her interview, she emphasised that her mother gave her important and lasting gifts: chiefly the unconditional love, 'which gives you strength all your life', but also the love of reading and music which proved not only to be emotionally sustaining, but also the source of so much pleasure.

    The biography is filled with references to the books and writers, songs and composers, which have been her lifelong companions. There were three big tragedies in Tomalin's life, and they all happened within a decade. First, her youngest child and only son Tom was born with spinal bifida in Second, Nick's death. Third, her daughter Susanna's swift descent into depression and then suicide in Although Tomalin tends to keep a tight lid on her feelings - both in the biography, and one suspects, in real life - the chapter on Susanna's death was extremely upsetting to read, partly because one senses that Tomalin to some extent blames herself for not getting Susanna the help she needed.

    The last three decades of Tomalin's life have been filled with work - it is, of course, her many biographies Dickens, Hardy, Pepys, Jane Austen, Katherine Mansfield which is she best-known for - and a marriage at age 60 to her longtime friend and fellow writer Michael Frayn.