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Diana Athill in the 1930s
Diana Athill was born in 1917 during a Zeppelin raid; she had a very happy childhood in Hertfordshire and at her maternal grandparents’ home in Norfolk, where she went to Runton Hill School. She went up to Oxford in 1936, and during WWII worked as a clerk at the Admiralty, and at the BBC. In 1946 she joined André Deutsch at his newly-founded publishing firm: over the next fifty years she became one of the leading editors in London. In 1958 Diana Athill started writing short stories; that year ‘The Return’ won the Observer short story competition. An Unavoidable Delay, a collection of her stories was published in 1962 in the USA; many of the stories in Midsummer Night in the Workhouse are taken from this collection. Instead of a Letter, her classic memoir about a failed love affair appeared in 1963, and a novel in 1967. She also published five more very successful volumes of memoirs, including the prizewinning Somewhere Towards the End in 2008. She died aged 101 in 2019.