Somewhere Towards the End

Diana Athill


What is it like to grow old? Locked as we are into our ghettos of age, we seldom come into close contact with the elderly, and few of the are as articulate as Diana Athill. She shows how growing old can be a challenge and a reward in itself. Scrupulously honest about her past life as an active woman, a loving partner, and an outstanding editor and writer, she is equally as honest about her present weakness and sense of loss. Still writing at age 101, she has am attitude of ‘enjoy yourself as much as you can without doing any damage to other people.’

A rare treasure of a book and a writer.


Coming into the End Zone

Doris Grumbach


As I enter my seventies, I find myself looking for a guide on how to do it. So far, I’ve read May Sarton’s journals, and they helped a bit. She mentions Doris Grumback, so I tried hers, and I found it much more helpful. For one thing, Grumbach doesn’t seem so self-absorbed. She is still engaged, still traveling, still involved in other people’s lives.

I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of her travels and the acknowledgement that it is probably for the last time. My travelling days have also come to an end, and I enjoy looking back at my trips and the good memories they hold. Fortunately, I never took a camera, so my memories are not limited to the size of a view-finder. I also don’t have piles of photographs to dispose of.

Grumbach offers a good example of aging gracefully. I’d love to share a cup of coffee with her.


The House by the Sea

Mary Sarton


Surprised by the success of her first journal, A Journal of A Solitude, May Sarton followed it with this second journal. Not quite as interesting, but it contains the themes that will continue through her journals—her preoccupation with the weather, love of gardening, and the importance of her friends.

Leaving the small house she lived in, she moves to a three-story house along the coast of Maine.There she struggles with the challenge of trying to keep a garden in the severe weather and the coming and going of her friends.

She was a difficult person to know, but she was honest, and that comes through in her journals. It is an interesting journey, and I’m glad she shared it with us.

At Seventy: A Journal

May Sarton


May Sarton is famous for her poetry, plays and novels, but it is her journals that speak to me the most. She writes about the tension she feels with the tug and pull between her love of solitude and the joy she experiences with groups of people, the pleasures of living alone and the worry about her independence as she ages.

I recommend this book to anyone living alone at this age and curious about how another person experiences the milestone.

Coming into Eighty

May Sarton


We have so few voices that tell us what to expect when we age. May Sarton is one of the few, and we are lucky to have her record of what old age is like. Whether in her journals, or her poetry, her clear voice articulates the challenges and rewards of the end of life.

Whether it’s the delights of ‘Lunch in the Garden’ or the power of memory in ‘The Tides’, she is able to put into words what many of us feel, but are unable to express: the joy of a warm summer day or the pull of memories that we are unable to resist and are swept away by.

I’m reading it to get ready.