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This review is taken from PN Review 166, Volume 32 Number 2, November - December 2005.

A GENTLE CHRONICLE ANNE RIDLER, Memoirs (Perpetua Press) £18

Anne Ridler's Memoirs were not written for publication but rather as an intimate family history for her children and grand-children. This fact goes some way to explain the disappointment several readers have felt with the book. Approaching it now as a reviewer, I find myself in a slightly difficult position. I am quoted on the jacket as praising Anne's 'poetic intelligence', her gifts as a raconteuse and her ear for dialogue - qualities which were certainly of the highest order. But when the blurb excusably claims that these are 'wonderfully apparent' in the present book, I have to disagree. The Memoirs are simply not that sort of book.

Those who wish to see this side of Anne best displayed should go to that miniature masterpiece, her essay Working for T.S. Eliot, separately published by Enitharmon in 2000. (The bibliography of Anne's 'Selected Writings' at the back of Memoirs fails to list this; nor does it give readers any lead to the extensive interviews with Anne which both Carole Satyamurti and I published, in which Anne talked at length about her life, poetry, opera libretti and much else.)

Rather, the Memoirs give us a gentle and reflective chronicle of her life, full of useful biographical detail, and also ideal for consultation when one of those family arguments breaks out about which holiday it was on ...


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