Excerpt from Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Somewhere Towards the End

A Memoir

by Diana Athill

Somewhere Towards the End
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2009, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2009, 208 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

About the deaths of my paternal grandparents, my father's siblings and my mother's father I know little, but nothing was ever said to suggest that they were particularly harrowing, while on my mother's side one sister had a stroke when she was eighty-three from which she died almost at once without recovering consciousness; another aged ninety-four was distressed for less than an hour, then died in a daughter's arms just after saying that she was now feeling much better; another went quietly after becoming increasingly weak and dozy for about three weeks; and their brother, a lucky man whose luck held to the very end, was on his horse at a meet of the Norwich Stag-hounds at the age of eighty-two, talking with friends, when flop! and he fell off his horse stone dead in the middle of a laugh. The eldest of my cousins had similar luck, falling down dead as she was making a cup of tea.

My brother, who died last year, was less lucky, but not because he was painfully ill for a long time, or afraid of death. His trouble was that he resented it because he loved his life so passionately. He was eighty-five. He knew death was coming because, having stubbornly refused to pay attention to various ailments of old age which were obvious to his anxious wife and other people, he was finally forced to recognize that his appetite had gone and that he was feeling dreadfully cold. But he still longed to be out messing about with his boats – he lived on the Norfolk coast in a place he adored and to have to leave that place and its occupations seemed to him the worst possible fate.

One afternoon not long before he died he took me out for a sail. His house is just inland from Blakeney Point, a long spit of sand dunes that runs parallel to the shore, partially enclosing a stretch of water which at low tide becomes a river snaking its way out to sea through exposed mud, but at high tide is a wide, sheltered expanse busy with small sailing boats and easily navigated by larger ones provided they are careful to observe the markers showing where the deeper channels run. On that day there was hardly a breath of wind. Sky and water were mother-of-pearl and the breasts of doves, a blend of soft blues and pinks so delicate that I had never seen its like. A small group of sailing dinghies was lying becalmed, hoping to be able to start a race (we, who were motoring, gave one of them which had no outboard engine a tow to join the group). None of the people lounging at the tiller of these little boats looked impatient or bored, because no one could mind being becalmed in the middle of so much loveliness. When we were some way past them, near the end of the Point, almost in the open sea, a tiny popple began under our hull and and a cat's paw of breeze – a kitten's paw, more like it – just ruffled the water's surface enough for sunlight to start twinkling off the edges of each ripple; I was once told that fishermen at Aldeburgh used to call that effect of light 'tinkling cymbals'. I shall always think of it as that, and no tinkling cymbals I ever saw were better than those we moved through when Andrew was at last able to hoist canvas and very, very gently we started to sail. We didn't talk much. Although we didn't often see each other and differed widely in many of our opinions, he and I had never lost touch with the closeness we had enjoyed in early childhood and there was much that we could understand about each other without words. That afternoon was brimming with a loveliness peculiar to that particular place; he knew that I was appreciating it, and I knew without any doubt how profoundly he was penetrated by it. He was a man who, with the help of the right wife, had finally found himself the place and the life that fulfilled him, and lived it with a completeness and intensity more often seen in an artist than in someone who should have been a farmer, had to become an army officer, and ended by teaching people sailing, and growing oysters, on the edge of the North Sea. What filled him as death approached was not fear of whatever physical battering he would have to endure (in fact there was not, at the end, any of that), but grief at having to say goodbye to what he could never have enough of.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill. Copyright © 2009 by Diana Athill. Excerpted by permission of Norton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Marriage of Opposites
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's latest work, The Marriage of Opposites, is a historical fiction novel focusing on ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Imperial Wife
    by Irina Reyn

    A smart, engaging novel that parallels two fascinating worlds and two singular women.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Sweet Caress
by William Boyd

William Boyd's Sweet Caress captures an entire lifetime unforgettably within its pages. It captivates.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!