In Review

The Year of the End by Anne Theroux

Theroux’s memoir is a ‘funny and self-deprecating’ testament to a disintegrating marriage

Several years after her marriage collapsed, Anne Theroux saw her ex-husband being interviewed on television. Writers, Paul Theroux declared, need to marry “a specific type of woman – protective and self-sacrificing types… a secretary, mother, guardian of the gate”. In response, she sent him a note: “If you had given me the job description in advance, I wouldn’t have applied.” 

The Year of the End, her memoir of her disintegrating marriage, is “wise and vivid”, said Fiona Sturges in The i Paper. From the moment the couple met in Uganda in 1967, it was clear that Paul’s career was to take precedence: he insisted that Anne give up her cherished teaching job, and though she subsequently worked as a BBC radio presenter, she was often left to cope with their young sons (Louis and Marcel) while he travelled the world, having frequent affairs.

The book is based on her diaries from 1990, when the two separated, and the entries find her pinballing between longing and fury. However, retribution isn’t the point of this book: it’s a “funny and self-deprecating” portrait of a woman “learning how to be alone”.

Revenge it may not be, said Rachel Cooke in The Observer, but it is a last word of sorts. It’s clear why the author was dazzled by her dashing young husband, but she also sees him very clearly – “his amateur dramatics, his sentimentality, his hypocrisy”. Professional travellers, she notes, tend to be charming and adventurous, but also distant and brutal.

Some of the diary entries are a bit Pooterish, but the overall tone is “dignified and moving”. Indeed, said Paul Perry in The Irish Independent: though deception and betrayal are the watchwords of this “candid” memoir, Anne Theroux – who went on to become a relationship therapist – shows great restraint. “Good for her, one thinks.”

Icon Books 256pp £12.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99

Anne Theroux
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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