This book, to borrow a phrase from John le Carre, wears many hats upon its head. First, it's a word picture of publishing as it used to be, or at least was sometime, somewhere, and I think almost inadvertently a parallel portrait of working women post-war. The first half is a personal narrative of Athill's life as an editor, and the second remembrances of individual writers she edited, the most compelling (and appalling) chapter of which is on Jean Rhys*.
The story began with my father telling me: 'You will have to earn your living.'
she writes, and then goes on to fill in her background, one of privileged, upper class English country life filled with horses and books. She fell passionately in love in her teens with a young British officer who then dumped her, which experience she says scarred her emotionally for life. Sorry if I sound a little skeptical here, but really, she was 17 years old when her doomed romance commenced. Get over it, kid.