A Life of My Own

  • by Claire Tomalin
  • Narrated by Dame Penelope Wilton
  • 9 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of A Life of My Own by Claire Tomalin, read by Dame Penelope Wilton.
As one of the best biographers of her generation, Claire Tomalin has written about great novelists and poets to huge success. Now she turns to look at her own life.
This enthralling memoir follows her through triumph and tragedy in about equal measure, from the disastrous marriage of her parents and the often difficult wartime childhood that followed to her own marriage to the brilliant young journalist Nicholas Tomalin. When he was killed on assignment as a war correspondent, she was left to bring up their four children - and at the same time make her own career.
She writes of the intense joys of a fascinating progression as she became one of the most successful literary editors in London before discovering her true vocation as a biographer, alongside overwhelming grief at the loss of a child.
Writing with the élan and insight which characterize her biographies, Claire Tomalin sets her own life in a wider cultural and political context, vividly and frankly portraying the social pressures on a woman in the '50s and '60s and showing 'how it was for a European girl growing up in mid-20th-century England...carried along by conflicting desires to have children and a worthwhile working life.'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Her autobiography as good as her biographies



Claire Tomalin’s strengths apparently come in industrial strength: a childhood steeped in culture (and parental disunity); a hugely developed intellect (her Cambridge First was inevitable); decades of success at a catalogue of high profile roles in literary journalism and editing; enormous energy and a capacity for prodigious and relentless hard work; five highly respected biographies (including Pepys & Mary Wollstonecraft)… And so it goes on.

These intellectual strengths have perhaps given her the dignified resilience in the face of tragedy. The death of her serially unfaithful husband Nicholas Tomalin when she was 40; the heart-breaking suicide of her exceptionally gifted golden daughter Susanna at the age of 22; a baby boy dead at 3 weeks (the coldest thing she’s ever touched); her only son disabled by spina bifida – just one of these would utterly destroy most of us. She describes the tragedies with elegance and not a shred of self-pity and her restrained treatment of bearing grief is extraordinarily moving.

But she does not want to be defined by these misfortunes. Work is her life-blood (‘Work Work Work’ is what drives her) and as she moves through her immensely successful career, her litany of friends and colleagues (and the frequent lists can be rather tedious) sounds like a Who’s Who of the literary world, sprung in large part from the inter-related network of high-flying Oxbridge graduates. But these names recreate the literary times.

Tomalin looks back on a working life spanning more than sixty years with all its social changes. That is interesting in itself, but her personal story (as in her biographies) makes the whole hugely involving. The story of her father coming to England and of the ultimately tragic marriage between him and Tomalin’s talented musician-composer mother would make a brilliant biography by itself. At 84 Tomalin says she’ll be beginning another book as soon as she’s finished this one. I’m sure she will – and I look forward to her finishing it.

Penelope Wilton is a highly appropriate reader with her perfect English voice, but I would have like a bit more vigour, a quality I imagine Tomalin possesses in spadefuls. The narration didn't need spadefuls, but just a little more vigour and variation.




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- Rachel Redford

Very Revelatory, and very enjoyable. Thank you.

Beautifully and lucidly written and spoken So enjoyed this book I could not stop listening for the length of it's revelations. Cannot agree with some last political pronounced summing up Standrad views which need examining and ualifying.Well contained but predictable from the provenance. But we fought the war for freedoms to disagree. I shall listen to this over and over again. A very attractive and creative woman.
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- Nike

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-09-2017
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd