Memoirist, novelist, editor extraordinaire, Diana Athill has been a mainstay of literary London for something like seven decades. Now, at ninety-eight years of age, she has become one of those people whose notoriety derives simply from not being dead—from still being, according to the title of her most recent memoir, Alive, Alive Oh! Ms. Athill is possibly the very last English author who can remember the 1920s clearly and write about that lost era with grace. Her descriptions of Ditchingham Hall, her grandparents’ Georgian house in Norfolk, are permeated with the sense of a lost arcadia we often find in Britons who can remember that time before world depression, fascism, World War II, and the welfare state changed their island forever. Athill’s grandparents had inherited this beautiful estate from ancestors who imagined that the environment they had created might endure...

 

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