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A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin

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A captivatingly intimate and moving memoir by one of Britain’s finest biographers. While Tomalin remarks in her Introductory Note that “writing about myself has not been easy”, the resulting book is an incredibly smooth reading experience, and deftly weaves deeply honest personal details with astute insights into Britain’s shifting social, cultural and literary landscapes.

Tomalin was born in London to a Liverpudlian music teacher and a man from the “mountains of Savoy”. While her mother’s love was unconditional, Tomalin was acutely aware of her father’s “unkindness”. Though their separation restored them both to sanity after a tumultuous marriage, the ensuing battle for custody was brutal. After this unsettling experience of childhood, Tomalin went up to Newham College, Cambridge, with great excitement. There she discovered “tremendous intellectual stimulus – an awakening, an opening of doors, fresh ways of looking at writing”, and this is clear from her account of these thrilling formative years. It was here she met her husband, the journalist Nick Tomalin, who tragically died while reporting as a young war correspondent, leaving the author to raise their four children alone, while also forging her own career as a literary editor. Further tragedy follows, but also joy and resurgence, as the author recounts her richly fascinating life with boundless emotional and intellectual lucidity. ~ Joanne Owen


A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin

This enthralling memoir follows her through triumph and tragedy in about equal measure, from the disastrous marriage of her parents and the often difficult wartime childhood that followed, to her own marriage to the brilliant young journalist Nicholas Tomalin. When he was killed on assignment as a war correspondent she was left to bring up their four children - and at the same time make her own career. She writes of the intense joys of a fascinating progression as she became one of the most successful literary editors in London before discovering her true vocation as a biographer, alongside overwhelming grief at the loss of a child.Writing with the elan and insight which characterize her biographies, Claire Tomalin sets her own life in a wider cultural and political context, vividly and frankly portraying the social pressures on a woman in the Fifties and Sixties, and showing 'how it was for a European girl growing up in mid-twentieth-century England ... carried along by conflicting desires to have children and a worthwhile working life.'


I loved Claire Tomalin's memoir and ate through it in a day when I was supposed to be doing other things. So interesting and delightful and charming. I loved how she weaves the big dramatic events with the everyday - which is so much of what life is. -- Cathy Rentzenbrink, bestselling author of The Last Act of Love

Tomalin knows how to tell a cracking story Daily Mail on Charles Dickens

A book that radiates intelligence, wit and insight New York Times on Jane Austen: A Life

Tomalin is the nimblest of narrators Time Out on Charles Dickens

Claire Tomalin is the finest and most disinterested of biographers, because in her pages she has given Jane Austen her liberty -- Hilary Mantel on Jane Austen

Superb -- Nick Hornby on Charles Dickens

Tomalin is a most intelligent and sympathetic biographer ... She writes well and wittily Daily Telegraph on The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft

About the Author

Claire Tomalin was literary editor of the New Statesman then the Sunday Times before leaving to become a full-time writer. Her first book, The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft, won the Whitbread First Book Award, and she has since written a number of highly acclaimed and bestselling biographies. The Invisible Woman, a definitive account of Dickens' relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, won three major literary awards, and Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self was Whitbread Book of the Year in 2002. Claire Tomalin is married to the writer Michael Frayn.

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Book Info

Publication date

7th September 2017


Claire Tomalin

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Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd


352 pages


Biography / Autobiography
eBook Favourites

Autobiography: literary
Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers



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