The nonagenarian historian and travel writer invites us into her private world with a mixed but amiable daily diary of her thoughts, observations, and reflections.
Morris (Battleship Yamato, 2018, etc.) does not dwell overmuch on the indignities and tribulations of old age; rather, she celebrates the fact that she is still alive and (mostly) kicking, taking pleasure in the grand and mundane in like measure. She does not mention being a pioneering transsexual, nor—since her traveling days are now few—her fame as one of our most accomplished travel writers and historians. Many of the entries are lighter than air, others nostalgic or wistful, chipper or gloomy, lilting and poetic, naïve or mildly cynical. Some deploy philosophical insights on the human condition and sharp assessments of current world events. The book moves from humor to veiled melancholy to sharply delineated sense of place, with some of the author’s own sprightly verse for grace notes. While her chief subject is her home of 70 years, Wales, Morris definitely has some bees in her bonnet. Whatever pops into her head gets equal time, from Brexit and agnosticism to the abomination of zoos, the malleability of memory, the better angels of Britain's imperial era, the U.K.'s current malaise, her special affection for the United States, the intimate presence of the books in her personal library, the horrors of the daily news, the spellbinding mysteries of birds, and the seductive traps of ego. There's also an ode to Montaigne, asides on her longtime companion Elizabeth, a dissection of monarchical absurdities, an appreciation of technological advancements, an accounting of the marvelous menagerie of keepsakes in her home, and an elegy for the changing nature of the English character.
Though some pieces begin jauntily but fade into irrelevance, Morris generally keeps readers engaged, as she has done successfully for decades.