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A Diana Athill for the middle years …

'I looked in the mirror one morning, and saw the face of a stranger. Who was she, this haggard, bun-faced woman with the softening jawline, the downturned mouth, the world-weary air of a woman who hasn't had what she wanted from life, and knows she isn't going to get it now? Why, it was no one else but me, myself and I.'

Middle age took Jane Shilling by surprise. She hadn't seen it coming, and she certainly wasn't ready for it. Living a flawed, bittersweet version of the idyll she dreamed of in her twenties, in a tumbledown urban cottage by the Thames, with a son, a cat and a horse in a livery fifty miles away, she wondered whether middle age was the beginning of the end. Or was there one last great adventure to be had? The Stranger in the Mirror is one woman's attempt to understand what middle age means for her and whether, as a new generation of women turns fifty, a revolution is under way. It definitely won't reverse the signs of ageing – but it will make you laugh, it will make you think and it could just make you look in the mirror in a slightly different way...


Shilling's thoughts on love and ageing are so wise and so memorably expressed that they would grace a literary novel... Shilling's mild obsession with control and with the delicate, the exquisite and the theatrically miniature almost makes her into a latter day Jane Austen

New Statesman

I loved this book so much I gulped it down in just two sittings... Jane Shilling is a peerlessly elegant and evocative writer

Libby Purves, Mail on Sunday

Shilling is a gorgeous writer and there are chunks of this book that I would happily steal... If this woman wrote a novel I would buy it in a heartbeat... Shilling puts the ageing process under the microscope and, as we read, we squirm

Jenny Eclair, Observer

Jane Shilling is an outstandingly good writer...she also has emotional and intellectual courage


Wry, quietly fuming and often moving memoir of a midlife cri de couer... exceptionally companionable, occasionally bejewelled and richly sustaining broth of a book

Sunday Telegraph

Shilling's style, dashingly cavalier and artfully artless, bubbles with wit and brio


Imagine Montaigne as a thoroughly modern unmarried mother and freelance journalist living in south London... Everywhere there is detail, and nuance, and care about others, and about words


Shilling is brave and endearingly frank


An intelligent discursion on what it means to be a no-longer-youthful female in a world obsessed with staying young ... Her thoughts are refreshing, provocative and a pleasure to read


Jane Shilling is an excellent writer...this is detailed, personal and memorable

William Leith, Evening Standard

The essay form, with its drifts and lurches, suits Shilling's purposes perfectly as she catalogues her experience of middle-ages confusion and loss... all with detail, nuance, enthusiasm and care

Ian Sansom, Guardian

The usual stereotypes about grumpy old women are jettisoned in favour of ironic and nuanced observations about sexuality, identity and death in this crisply written memoir about middle age

Benjamin Evans, Daily Telegraph

An honest midlife memoir of ageing, false expectations and unrealised dreams

Michael Binyon, The Times

Detailed, personable and memorable

William Leith, Scotsman

Her story may not be unusual, but the elegance and range of her writing most certainly is. The journey is a delight

Daily Telegraph

Fans of this beautifully crafted, critically acclaimed memoir of middle-age might well take the view that it should be distributed free on the NHS to all women over 50... a penetrating analysis of the challenges and heartaches of life's middle phase

Katherine Whitbourn, Daily Mail

Shilling casts a self-critical eye over the events that have shaped her life

Emma Hagestadt, Independent

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    January 15, 2012


    256 pages

    RRP $29.99

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  • EBook


    March 1, 2012

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

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