A Life of My Own

A Memoir
Narrated by: Penelope Wilton
Length: 9 hrs and 38 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Esteemed biographer and legendary literary editor Claire Tomalin's stunning memoir of a life in literature.

In A Life of My Own, the renowned biographer of Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, and Thomas Hardy, and former literary editor for the Sunday Times reflects on a remarkable life surrounded by writers and books. From discovering books as a form of escapism during her parents' difficult divorce, to pursuing poetry at Cambridge, where she meets and marries Nicholas Tomalin, the ambitious and striving journalist, Tomalin always steered herself towards a passionate involvement with art. She relives the glittering London literary scene of the 1960s, during which Tomalin endured her husband's constant philandering and numerous affairs, and revisits the satisfaction of being commissioned to write her first book, a biography of the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. In biography, she found her vocation. However, when Nick is killed in 1973 while reporting in Israel, the mother of four put aside her writing to assume the position of literary editor of the New Statesman. Her career soared when she later moved to the Sunday Times, and she tells with dazzling candor of this time in her life spent working alongside the literary lights of 1970s London. But, the pain of her young daughter's suicide and the challenges of caring for her disabled son as a single mother test Claire's strength and persistence. It is not until later in life that she is able to return to what gave her such purpose decades ago, writing biographies, and finds enduring love with her now-husband, playwright Michael Frayn.   

Marked by honesty, humility, and grace, rendered in the most elegant of prose, A Life of My Own is a portrait of a life, replete with joy and heartbreak. With quiet insight and unsparing clarity, Tomalin writes autobiography at its most luminous, delivering an astonishing and emotionally taut masterpiece.

©2017 Claire Tomalin (P)2018 Tantor

What listeners say about A Life of My Own

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Flat, name dropping with no insight

When reading a memoir, I enjoy the perspective and insight of the author. It is what differentiates it from biography or historical fact sheet. This book relates facts, drops dozens of names, highlights fashion trends and brags/complains of affairs but doesn't share one true feeling. Listing famous "friends" while not exploring them, is frustrating to a reader. Totally unrelateable in the writing, Ms. Wilton does all she can to inject warmth into this one dimensional character. Very disappointing overall.

4 people found this helpful

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Absolutely Marvelous

It's a great autobiography and Wilton's reading of it is perfect. I wasn't particularly familiar with Claire Tomalin and now want to read everything she's written. I found her life fascinating and rich in culture in a way that so many lives are not. She describes her family life (complicated, relatable) in as much detail as she describes the music, theater, art, travel and books that have given her so much joy and which most of us don't experience (at least not as regularly). It's a great dive into a well-educated, well-connected, elite world and simultaneously a lovely meditation on the more familiar topics of motherhood, marriage and loss. I recommend this book to anyone but particularly to people who love autobiographies and who enjoy listening to people discuss art and artists of all types.

2 people found this helpful

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Loved this book

I chose this book because Tomalin is my favorite biographer, but I was unprepared for how much I would enjoy her memoir. She completely brought me into her worlds, both the world of London writers and intellectuals in which she worked and the world of her family in which she lived. She has to face more than her fair share of tragedy over the course of her life, but she emerges from the book neither as victim nor as hero. She is admittedly privileged in many ways, but she makes good use of her privileges and talents to create a loving family and to find work that fulfills her. Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) does a fine job narrating.

1 person found this helpful

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A bit too private for this genre

Claire Tomalin is a beautiful writer , but for a memoir I felt she was too reserved and private- about her kids, her second marriage, her managing career with children, etc. There were nice tidbits here and she has no doubt had an interesting life but I wished for more detail. Great narration from Penelope Wilton, whose dry delivery always seems to be holding back a smile.

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A really interesting life

Claire Tomalin's work as a biographer is widely known and respected. Now that I've heard about her life, I am amazed that she's gotten so much done aside from living that life. Really interesting to hear.

1 person found this helpful