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Marlene Hobsbawm worked for the Foreign Office and the UN before becoming a music teacher. She lives in Battersea , South London
Suffused in warmth, wit and much love, Marlene Hobsbawm’s memoir is an un-put-down-able account of an inimitably fascinating life, “a record of family, friendship, travel, and an unwavering love between two unlikely individuals” who spent fifty years together. Born into a middle class Jewish family in pre-war Vienna, Marlene was five when her father had the foresight to relocate her family to the UK in 1937 to escape the rise of Nazism, first living in London, then Manchester, before evacuation to Staffordshire. Though initially self-conscious of her spoken English to the extent that she became “a self-imposed mute”, Marlene was a skilled linguist and secured a job with the UN in post-war Italy, later moving to work in The Congo. It was on her return to the UK from the latter that she met Eric, “a groovy single man about town, much in demand socially”. Like her life as a young working woman, Marlene and Eric’s married life was thrillingly unconventional, not surprising considering that Eric was the world’s most famous historian and witness to many pivotal global events, among them the Cuban revolution where he interpreted for Che Guevara. Indeed, much of Marlene and Eric’s time together was spent under the watch of MI5. It’s against such extraordinary backdrops that Marlene recalls her and Eric’s Christmases in Hampstead entertaining their social circle of left-wing intellectuals and artists; Boxing Days with Eric’s communist comrades; a visit from Chomsky; immersive visits to South America with their young family. Throughout, the author’s recounting of remarkable undertakings is full of grace and wit, and made all the more compelling by her matter-of-fact delivery and humour: “Surely everyone is glad to be home, wherever you’ve been, after a long absence. Home is knowing where the teabags are”. Moving, intimate and utterly engrossing, I adored every second spent in Marlene’s company through this charming memoir.