“Tomalin, the esteemed English biographer of Samuel Pepys, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and others, writes briskly and sensitively here of her own life.”
Featured in New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2018.
“Claire Tomalin, an accomplished literary biographer, moves smoothly between the trivial and the tragic and deftly braids the personal, professional and historical in this decorous but elegant memoir that is an ode to perseverance.”
Featured in NPR’s Best Books of 2018.
In “A Life of My Own,” Claire Tomalin, who’s now 85, turns her clamant eye on her own history. She firmly readdresses her always rough roads in life through a hellacious childhood, grueling marriage, and early widowhood; to a rewarding life of her own.
In this insightful and intimate biography, Claire remembers moments of intense personal emotion as well as the national literary history: a convulsive childhood that was distempered by her parents’ custody battle; her escape to Cambridge University, where she met journalist Nick Tomalin, who later on became her husband; life on Gloucester Crescent with neighbours Mary-Kay Wilmers and Alan Bennett.
Throughout the book, Tomalin continually expresses gratefulness for her “ good sense and admirable courage.” It’s a model she definitely found facilitative while facing her own excruciations years later.
Tomalin’s delineation of her tumultuous marriage to Nicholas Tomalin is way too un-self-pitying and forthright. Being a brilliant reporter by profession, her husband was unreliable, unfaithful and chronically restless. They got married at a young age, and she was quickly tied down post giving birth to four children in a total span of five years.
The pleasures of reading this book are many as Ms. Tomalin steers the professional landscape as a flamboyantly attractive woman in a world of men. It sheds immense light on an all-but-eclipsed literary culture base out from Oxbridge when clanking ideologies were taken less seriously than heady ideas.