BOOK REVIEW: The Private Life Of The Diary by Sally Bayley

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Out Now 

Published by Unbound.

Review by Melis Anik


A fascinating collection of diary entries from days gone by and memories long forgotten, ‘The Private Life of the Diary’ is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. From Pepys to Plath, Sally Bayley proves why the self-indulgent task of writing about oneself has been all too appealing through the ages. A unique and thought provoking read for budding writers, or those interested in delving into the lives of the literary greats.

Throughout the book, the collection of anecdotes complimented, but didn’t overshadow, the diarist that was being described. This not only made it easier to distinguish between each section, but it also kept my attention from diverting from the book itself. Whilst offering glimpses into the lives of the famous and admired, Bayley also explores the many uses of the diary itself. This not only keeps things interesting, but also makes you reflect on your reasons behind your own diary, or the diarist’s style you hope to embrace in the future.

Unlike a fictional novel, I found myself immersed in the realities of life itself, which proved to be a positive experience that has since encouraged me to read more non-fiction. However personally, and by no fault of Bayley herself, I found the more political diarists tedious to read at times. This was mainly due to my inability to understand the more political aspects of their entries, thus temporarily halting my enjoyment of the book. Nevertheless, these minor issues were short-lived as I delved further into the lives of writers whom I was much more interested in.

Overall, The Private Life of The Diary will leave you searching for journals you’d long since forgotten about, and the notebooks that you are yet to use. By exploring the history of the diary, its place within our modern world and the art of writing your own, Bayley has turned what could have been a specialist book for the few into one for the many. After all, if accomplished writers such as Virginia Woolf can write about the mundane realities of life, why can’t you?