Category: Book Reviews

“Claire Tomalin’s memoir is a study in resilience and pluck”

Claire Tomalin

Heller McAlpin writes:

Claire Tomalin’s literary biographies — of Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, Charles Dickens and Katherine Mansfield, among others — aren’t so much massive biographies of record as fresh, engaging, revisionist takes on her subjects. In “A Life of My Own,” Tomalin, now 85, turns her critical eye on her own history, revisiting her not always smooth path through a challenging childhood, difficult marriage and early widowhood to a rewarding life of her own. “In taking on this self-imposed task,” she writes, “I was driven partly by curiosity: what would I learn about myself?” Plenty — and so do we.

Tomalin brings to her memoir a pro’s practiced ability at threading the personal, the professional and the contextual with details that sing. Born in London in 1933 to Émile Delavenay, from Savoy, and Muriel Herbert, from Liverpool, Claire Delavenay’s early years were marked by “discontinuity” — frequent relocations stemming from her parents’ bitter divorce and evacuations during World War II. After her father left, her mother gave up a promising career as a pianist and composer for a routine office job to support herself and her two daughters. Tomalin repeatedly expresses gratitude for her “admirable courage and good sense.” It’s a model she clearly found helpful when facing her own tribulations years later.

"…patient/doctor relations were forever changed by Inglis's efforts"

Brian Inglis
Brian Inglis (1916-1993) was neither the first nor only author to question blind obedience to doctors. Nonetheless, his controversial classic “Fringe Medicine” (1964, Faber and Faber) ushered in the modern era of patient advocacy, laying the foundations for today’s wellness movement. The author’s traversal of this field laid out options for desperate patients ill-served by conventional therapies and determined to recapture their health. How well has Inglis’s campaign withstood the test of time?
Inglis’s warnings of antibiotic resistance are remarkably prescient. In other areas he may have gone too far (the “black box,” used in the technique of radiesthesia, has faded from view). Self-censorship was never Brian’s forte, and his polemics unleashed a counter-revolution with the rise of the global skeptical movement in the 1970s.
The fact remains that patient/doctor relations were forever changed by Inglis’s efforts. Join us at interlitq.org as Brian’s son Neil Langdon Inglis reviews “Fringe Medicine,” soon to be re-released by Endeavour Media in an e-book edition.