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Summary

In a beautiful literary exploration, Sally Bayley tracks the evolution - and the potential 21st-century death of - the diary, mourning what it means to lose the art of writing simply for oneself.  

Diaries hold all manner of things: they allow us a moment to be completely personal, to self-aggrandise, to focus on self-reflection without concern of what someone on the outside might think. Discovered or published diaries of the past have also provided glimpses into history, eras and minds gone by, especially the inner lives otherwise unknown.

Tracing the history of the diary from Samuel Pepys, whose record of the Great Plague and Great Fire of London informed history, through the likes of Virginia Woolf’s personal confessions in the 20th century, and up to the age of social media, Sally Bayley explores the beauty and the power of recording one’s own life.

Taking this thought all the way up to our era of exposure, with confessional journalism and social media barrage, Bayley explores what we might lose as individuals if we let go of the diary as private confidante, choosing instead a culture of public disclosure.

©2021 Sally Bayley (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"A masterly study on the 'long historical habit' of diary writing.... Bayley's book succeeds brilliantly in merging scholarship with imagination, and emotional depth with writerly flair." (Independent)

"An elegant survey of diaries through history and why we keep them.... Bayley is splendidly dismissive of blogs – sending boring screeds into 'a blank universe' - and when she defined tweeting as 'a sort of premature mental ejaculation' I wrote in the margin in Sylvia Plath-size letters with a Magic Marker: Brava, Sally!" (Roger Lewis, The Times)

"A delight for fans of Sylvia Plath as well as diary writers everywhere." (Woman's Way Ireland)

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