This new memoir is one of my very favorite books of the year, and perhaps you recall Tomalin’s famous biographies of Hardy, Pepys, Dickens, Nelly Ternan, and Jane Austen. This time it is her life. The story is hard to excerpt, but here is one bit:
The day [for our lunch] came, and I realized I was feeling wobbly. I resolved to take no notice and things started well. We chatted and surveyed our menus. I chose fish, and even as I ordered it I knew it was a mistake. We talked on; I felt my stomach heave. I knew Vidia [Naipaul] to be the most fastidious of men. What should I do? I rose carefully to my feet, excused myself in a calm voice and said I would be back in a moment. I managed to make my way through it I ran as fast as my feet would carry me along the corridor to the Ladies, where I threw up with great violence. I washed my face in cold water, combed my hair, powdered my nose, gave myself a shake and returned.
Vidia looked at me and said, “You did that very well.”