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The best and the worst moments of my life


My 90th birthday
Diana Athill Writer
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There were three parties, the last of which was entirely family, about 20 people there. And it was a lovely party and everybody was having the most gorgeous time, enjoying themselves tremendously. And I was sitting there looking and I thought, 'My God, we are a lucky family'. Really, nearly all the marriages have been happy. All the young are successful. Nice, attractive, kind, doing well, intelligent people. It's amazing. Hardly any… the two divorces, if one digs about, one can find two divorces. And I said to myself, 'No divorces… almost no divorces, no problem children'. When I said that to my sister, she said, 'No problem children? What about Jane?' And I remembered that her daughter had, of course, been a huge problem, but on the other hand, made it even clearer how lucky we are, in that she's now no problem at all and she's absolutely lovely and has a gorgeous family and everything is perfect. So that we are a very lucky family. And we both of us had sat there watching these people, and we both of us had the same thought.

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: party, birthday, family, luck

Duration: 1 minute, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 23 December 2008