12 September 2014

Make Believe, by Diana Athill

Athill is not only a good writer, she also comes across as a smart, sympathetic, and uncommonly self-aware sort of woman. Thus, her graceful prose and keen observations are a pleasure to read, and the book feels both warm and intimate, like a really good conversation.

That said, the contents seem more suited to conversation than a book. Chronicling her acquaintance with the increasingly mentally disturbed Hakim Jamal, Athill is basically relating what happened, without drawing much in the way of insight from it. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- when she does make a move towards more sweeping conclusions, it rings a bit hollow. One is left, instead, with the curiously cynical sense that rather upsetting trajectory of this man's life was bitterly senseless, and that there was not much that anyone could do about it. I was somewhat hoping for more of a thick description of that particular historical moment, and while there is some of that, the book seems much more personal. It does make me want to read more of her writing though.

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