1 April 2018 Susannah

Memoirs to Read

Tomalin, Eyres & Hill memoirs

I have read some excellent memoirs recently and can recommend them all:

A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin. Such a treat to have an autobiography of my favourite biographer. She writes so beautifully, and her life has been such a fascinating one. I especially loved reading about how she came to write her biographies of Pepys, Jane Austen, Hardy, Dickens, and more. Enough to make me give up even trying to write – how can I compete with Claire Tomalin??
Horace and Me by Harry Eyres, was a memoir about how reading Latin poet Horace shaped the life and career of a wine critic and slow-movement man. I knew little of Horace and felt I learned so much in Harry’s erudite and excellent company.
Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill. Some years ago I read and enjoyed her book Howard’s End is on the Landing, about reading books she found all over her house. This new book is on similar lines, and covers a year in her reading life. But I do have problems with Susan! She writes so perceptively of R.L. Stevenson and Trollope, and yet she is utterly blind to the brilliance of Jane Austen. And for some strange reason she just refuses to even read Jane Eyre. I found her constant name-dropping irritating, but I loved her evocation of the changing English countryside during the year. This is a book you need to discuss with a good book-loving friend – thanks Amanda for letting me vent about parts of it to you, and for sharing my admiration of other parts. Definitely a curate’s egg sort of book.

Can you recommend a memoir that you have enjoyed? Please leave a comment to tell me.

  Susannah Fullerton: Claire Tomalin and Biographies
  Susannah Fullerton: Of Claire Tomalin and Katherine Mansfield

   A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin
   Jacob’s Room is Full of Books by Susan Hill
   Horace and Me by Harry Eyres

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Featured image credit- Claire Tomalin, Harry Eyres & Susan Hill memoirs. covers from https://www.goodreads.com/
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Comments (16)

  1. Alix

    Daughter of Empire: My Life As a Mountbatten by Pamela Hicks. I’m no royalist, but it’s a fascinating look at Britain’s 20th century.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for the recommendation. I have recently been watching ‘The Crown’ which of course features her father, so it will tie in nicely with that.

  2. These all sound so wonderful! I am putting them all on my list.

    I adore Simon Callow’s “Love is Where it Falls,” John Mortimer’s “Clinging to the Wreckage” and Lord Berners’ “A Distant Prospect.”

    Also, Augusten Burroughs’ “Dry.”

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I can lend you the Harry Eyres one if you’d like, Walter.
      I also love the John Mortimer memoir, but haven’t read the others you suggest – all sound great. Thanks.

  3. Brian Doyle

    If you can’t find a copy of Several Strangers Susannahyou know where to borrow one,another treasure to add to all her others in the bookcase

  4. Robbie Clarke

    My most recent memoir is Life in the garden by Penelope Lively. Really enjoyable especially if you love gardening!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      She wrote the novel ‘Moon Tiger’, didn’t she? I am not a gardener, but still like to read about gardening – thanks for the recommendation.

  5. Brian Doyle

    Several Strangers came out in 1999 and is now out of print I believe, after much searching I’ve found a second hand copy in really excellent condition, like you Susannah the book towers grow ever higher and the available hours shorter.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How come I missed knowing about any Claire Tomalin book???? Another one to search for second hand.

  6. Brian Doyle

    Have also recently read A Backward Glance, Edith Wharton’s autobiography, very little about her or her life just superbly written reminiscences of all her friends especially Henry James, every page a joy and rather like having Enid sitting in the room with you for a chat. Am awaiting a copy of the letters between Enid and Henry that I’ve finally found a copy of,no rest until it arrives.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I love Edith Wharton – she was such a fabulous writer. I have also enjoyed ‘A Backward Glance’. I have not yet got the new Claire Tomalin you mention, so must add that to my order list. Oh dear, every newsletter I write brings in fantastic suggestions for books I don’t have enough time to read.

  7. Brian Doyle

    Have read both of Margie’s suggestions, at her sugestion, have just finished The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone,five amazing women covering three hundred years of English history,very interesting and well written for a first book

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Ooh that sounds wonderful. Margie does make fabulous suggestions. I love that sort of history, portrayed through a house and its owners.

  8. Margi Abraham

    I also enjoyed Tomalin’s biography – she knew/ knows all the best writers and has had a difficult yet brave life. However I thought the writing was not as good as her in her literary biographies, which are brilliant. Two of my favourite memoirs are Bad Blood by literary critic/academic Lorna Sage (who died too young) and Father and Son by turn of the 20th C poet and critic Edmund Gosse. Fascinating people and beautiful writing. Both can lead you down a rabbit hole of reading more of their work!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Gosh, it is a long time since I read Edmund Gosse’s fabulous memoir about his relationship with his father. I muse re-read it. I don’t know the Lorna Sage one – thanks for the recommendation.

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