Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Claire Tomalin

Claire Tomalin: Writing a Life

January 26th, 2019
Calling All Authors

I caught up with English author and biographer Claire Tomalin about her best-selling memoir A Life of My Own. I loved it and can’t recommend it highly enough. Still working, the 85-year-old author shared her thoughts on moving on from sadness, finding love late in life (she married playwright and author Michael Frayn in 1993 when they were both 60) and her favourite London libraries.

Love of work and family, nature and music sustain you and have helped you overcome the tragedies in your life that would have felled many a weaker character. What advice would you give people, especially those struck down by sadness, in the pursuit of happiness?

It is hard to offer advice about how to deal with sorrows and tragedies.   I suppose I would say you have to incorporate them into your life, and keep working.  Work is one of the two most important things in life – love is the other.    When you lose someone you love you still have work to do.    You live with grief.   I don’t think you can pursue happiness – it comes when it will, often unexpectedly.

You found lasting and stable love relatively late in life with an old friend playwright and novelist Michael Frayn.

You wrote,

Middle-aged love proved stronger than anything I had known before, and enduring.

Do you think age and maturity play a significant role in the calm pleasures of middle-aged love? Can you tell us a bit more about that relationship and how it differs from your first marriage?

Yes, I would say that my late marriage has been the most wonderful relationship in my life.   Having had a husband who could not be relied on it was extraordinary to find myself with someone totally reliable.    It is not always easy being a step-mother or father, but tremendously rewarding when you all become friends.     Then, since both of us are writers, we understand the ups and downs of each others’ lives – what Michael calls

start of book depression, end of book depression, middle of book depression’.

He is probably a bit calmer than me, and laughs a lot at the ridiculousness of things.   I have learnt from him.   We both like walking and travelling together.   We get on well.

For the rest of my interview with Claire, click HERE. The Q&A was published in 26’s monthly newsletter. For those who love words, 26, is a writers’ group populated with poets to copywriters and everything in between. Happy Reading.

January, 2019

Images courtesy of Chris Boland