Over the last decade or so, Diana Athill has written a series of well-reviewed accounts of her life as an editor and writer in London. It’s hard to see how any inveterate reader wouldn’t devour them with joy. Yet each time a new book was published, I wondered anew why her first—and to my mind, still her best (as much as I’ve enjoyed the others)—memoir, Instead of a Letter, had never been reprinted. I loved it when I read it in 1962 and lent copies to all my friends until it went out of print and I sent my last remaining copy to a friend in Australia a few years ago. But now, mirabile dictu, her publisher, W. W. Norton, has remedied this situation and made Instead of a Letter available for a new generation of readers. I have to admit that I had some misgivings as I opened the new edition to the first page; I worried that it wouldn’t live up to my memory of it. (As all re-readers know, this happens frequently.) But, to my great relief, I was quickly reassured that the book had not lost any of its appeal for me. Athill grew up bookish in a large country home outside of London that was owned by her grandparents. When she was 15, she fell passionately in love with a young man, whom she calls Paul, who was then an undergraduate at Oxford and a member of the RAF (Royal Air Force). When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, however, Diana knew that nothing would (or could) ever be the same. Does Paul live? Do they marry? Are they happy together? Readers of her later memoirs like Stet and Somewhere Towards the End will already know the answers to these questions; but even they, I think, will enjoy this early, sterling example of what a memoir can and should be.