The Stranger In The Mirror: A Memoir Of Middle Age. Jane Shilling/Chatto & Windus. £16.99.
THE “official landmarks” of a fulfilled existence as a woman in these strongly feminist times are a love, a home, a job and a child, notes the intensely focussed Jane Shilling.
The theme of this book is that it isn’t only journalists like her who struggle to get these items neatly in line between the ages of 20 and 50.
At 50, she looks around to mark her own checklist: the son she has brought up single-handedly has shattered the egotism of her early decades, while working-class neighbours of south London have brought a closer appreciation of everyday pleasures than a Kentish childhood which sounds distantly brittle.
If you aren’t a celebrity or a sports star, ’memoirs of middle age’ must be a fearsome challenge unless the peaks are truly impressive, but Shilling carries it off with ease.
This is a beautifully written book, its perceptions of the joys and despair of modern-day eventually more absorbing than a journey through life which is, ultimately, sketched out rather lightly.