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Our favourite books when we were young


Granny used to read aloud to us
Diana Athill Writer
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She was a most wonderful reader aloud. When we were in her house, we were always… we and the cousins would always spend our Christmases there and things, and we were often there in the summer. Always, after tea, one went down to the drawing room when we were little, and Granny read to us. And she was a superbly good reader aloud. She read Old Scott to us. And it wasn't until I was grown up that I realised how much she'd been skipping, of long, long, long, descriptive passages. And she could read it, sort of, keeping to the story, without all of the heavy descriptions, without one knowing that she was skipping at all. She was a brilliant reader.

[Q] Did you like that?

Oh, we loved it. I mean, we all absolutely adored being read to by Granny.

[Q] So how should one picture that scene? I mean

You should picture this… this rather attractive white-haired lady in her very beautiful drawing room, sitting on a chintz-covered chair with the children sitting on the floor all around her.

Diana Athill (1917-2019) was a British literary editor whose publishing career began when she helped André Deutsch establish his company. She worked with many notable writers, namely Philip Roth, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Rhys and VS Naipaul. Following the publication of her memoirs, she came to be hailed as an author in her own right.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: grandmother, reading

Duration: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008