Alive, Alive Oh!

And Other Things that Matter

Diana Athill

Published: 7 July 2016
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 144 pages
ISBN: 9781783782727


What matters in the end? In the final years of life, which memories stand out? Writing from her retirement home in Highgate, London, as she approaches her 100th year, Diana Athill reflects on what it is like to be in her nineties, and on the moments in her life which have risen to the surface and sustain her in her later years.

She recalls in sparkling detail the exact layout of the garden of her childhood, a vast and beautiful park attached to a large house, and writes with humour, clarity and honesty about her experiences of the First and Second World Wars, and her trips to Europe as a young woman. In the remarkable title chapter, Athill describes her pregnancy at the age of forty-three, losing the baby and almost losing her life, and her gratitude on discovering that she had survived.

With vivid memories of the past mingled with candid, wise and often very funny reflections on the experience of being very old, Alive, Alive Oh! reminds us of the joy and richness to be found at every stage of life.

About the author

Image of Diana Athill

Diana Athill was born in 1917. She helped André Deutsch establish the publishing company that bore his name and worked as an editor for Deutsch for four decades. Athill's distinguished career as an editor is the subject of her acclaimed memoir Stet, which is also published by Granta Books, as are several further volumes of memoirs, Instead of a Letter, After a Funeral, Yesterday Morning, Make Believe, Somewhere Towards the End, and Alive, Alive Oh!, the travelogue A Florence Diary, a novel, Don't Look at Me Like That, and a collection of letters, Instead of a Book. In January 2009, she won the Costa Biography Award for Somewhere Towards the End, and was presented with an OBE. She lives in London. More about the author


‘[She] bathes us in lush imagery... If I'm making a mountain out of an Athill, it's because the author doesn't merely beckon you in for a sit-down and a cuppa; she springs a back panel to her mind and guides you down the thought paths inside - some dark, others dappled, all converging confidently on the things that truly matter in our lifetimes’



‘[This book] contains [Athill's] often moving and always engaging reflections on what really matters as you face the final curtain...The sheer candour with which she writes and the overwhelming sense of a life fully lived are both quite marvellous’

‘A gloriously wise and knowing collection of memories... [written] with her usual clarity, frankness and unsentimentality’ Danuta Kean

‘A series of amusing anecdotes’

‘A vivid sensual apprehension of physical pleasure [...] informs the best writing in this book’

‘Abundant, earthly and spiritual’ Book of the Week

‘Astonishingly vital and fiercely intelligent... Athill seems always to be completely honest and without unnecessary sentiment’

‘Athill's signature is precise, crisp phrasing of the kind that has the reader scrabbling for something with which to underline it... Full of life in the shadow of death’ Caroline Criado-Perez

‘Diana Athill reflects with a beautiful frankness on the pleasures and pains of a life very well lived. Splendid, and even more splendid’

‘Full of clear fresh air and bright distance’ Open Book, Radio 4

‘Infused with joie de vivre’ Lucy Scholes

‘Jam-packed with joie de vivre’

‘Prodigious diarist Diana Athill looks back with her usual mix of spike and spark on a formidable life’

‘The remarkable story of her outwardly conventional life’

‘There are... many treasures in this heterogeneous cabinet of curiosities’

‘Wise, candid and all-round remarkable, Athill reflects on being in her nineties. She touches on her childhood, memories of men, the delights of being in a home and much more.’

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