George V. Reilly

Review: The Assassin's Cloak

The Assassin's Cloak
Title: The Assassin’s Cloak
Author: Irene and Alan Taylor (editors)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Canongate Books
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 686
Keywords: au­to­bi­og­ra­phy
Reading period: 1 January, 2007 — 12 January, 2008

This anthology of diaries contains several entries for every day of the year, drawn from 170 con­trib­u­tors across three-and-a-half centuries. Everyone from Pepys to Goebbels, from Che Guevara to Alec Guinness.

I spent all of last year reading this book, trying to read each day’s entries as they occurred. I often failed and would have to read a week or more’s entries to catch up. I fell behind towards the end, not finishing my daily devotions until yesterday.

The book was drawn from several years of entries in two Scottish newspapers, and most of the diairists are British. The 20th century is well rep­re­sent­ed, par­tic­u­lar­ly the two World Wars. Some of the entries from a particular diairist tell a story; others are unrelated snapshots of their lives. Some entries tell of momentous events, such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or victory in war. Others are banal records of an ordinary day, noteworthy only because they give us an insight into a lifestyle that no longer exists. Many of the diarists were famous, at least in their own lifetimes; some live quiet, unremarked, but not unobserved lives.

I wonder how many diaries are written now, in the age of blogging. Will a future anthology have to dig into the Wayback Machine and Google’s cache to mine entries from blogs?

Rec­om­mend­ed.

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