Book review: Private Life of the Diary

Book review of The Private Life of the Diary, by Sally Bayley. The Travelling Bookbinder

There are so many reasons to put pen to paper, and in The Private Life of the Diary, Sally Bayley examines the variety of genres and motivations for writing things down.

Did you have a five year diary you could lock with a tiny key? Did you write in green ink? Or purple?! Did you pour your very heart into it?

The author, a diarist herself, sees their potential to “offer brilliant shards of glistening, extravagant, entertaining, inimitable, unrepeatable insight.” She takes us on a journey through other people’s pages, from the eminent, to the extraordinary, to the personal.

Describing her own need for a diary, and the quest to find a suitable receptacle, Bayley gives attention to the physical form of the book, which must not call attention to itself, for the sake of privacy. She finds the perfect one, with lines “reassuringly thick and bold, but not too thick I couldn’t write over them,” inconspicuously covered in brown paper.

I was delighted to learn that Virginia Woolf, who regularly documented her daily observations, prioritised her diaries over clothes when packing for a seven week holiday in 1903. She sews together ‘journal books’ – she binds! Time and space are measured by the amount of paper she gets through.

There are many curious shining details in this book, each diary a “miniature museum of experience”.

The Private Life of a Diary, by Sally Bayley, is published by William Collins.

Buy your copy from Golden Hare Books using this code bookbinderbookreview005 and receive a 10% discount. Valid until 21st October 2021.

Now where’s my pen, there’s something I need to note down…

2 thoughts on “Book review: Private Life of the Diary

  1. Hi Rachel: in touch with our Denver bookseller to see if we can airlift a copy of Sally’s book over to the States. I am green with envy for your course this weekend. Know it will become everything you hope for, lucky students! Sending big hugs, C.

    1. Dear Cozy, Fingers crossed that your local bookseller can unite you with Sally’s book. Oh it would have been a treat to see you this weekend…but time is going to fly by until you’re back on Iona, I know it! XXr

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