Old Seems to be Other People | Lily Brett #AWWessays

It is easier to feel young in new York.

Lily Brett feels like one of my very dear old friends. I’ve been reading her fiction and non-fiction for over 20 years now. Most of her books I read pre-blog, with Lola Bensky being the only foray into her work during my blogging years (although I did dip my toes into Only in New York a couple of years ago).

A charming familiarity imbues both her fiction and non-fiction. So much so, that I’m generally left feeling like I don’t need to dip my toes into any more of her books, because I have a pretty good idea what I will find inside. This is a good and bad thing I guess.

Good, because just like an old friend, when you catch up again after time apart, you fall into a comfortable companionship, picking up where you left off last time. As a book seller this is a bad thing as it’s not always easy to convince people they should read her latest book…including me. But after my recent holiday, I had the post-holiday blues big time. I needed an old friend; and I needed her now! And there was Lily, the lovely ‘Aqua Lily‘ portrait by her husband, David Rankin, staring at me from the cover, saying ‘hello’.

I complain a lot. I also don’t mind other people complaining. In a strange way, you get to know people more intimately, I think, if you listen to their complaints.

Picking up where she left off last time, just a little bit older and wiser, we wander the street of New York together, worrying about our weight, getting older and how to do so gracefully. Since last I caught up with Lily, she had had a visit back to Melbourne to visit her childhood home ( a tearful reunion as you would expect from Lily). And, oh so sadly, the death of her beloved father in 2018 at 101 years of age. His character, and Lily’s relationship with him, was one of the most endearing qualities about her books.

My father was the light of my childhood. I loved my mother very much but, in a community where everyone was in a state of grief, it was my father who showed me that it was possible to pierce that grief with laughter.

Each essay was only about 3-5 pages long – just long enough to read over my pre-work morning coffee. Most of them were written a year or so ago. The streets of New York were still teeming with pedestrians, an international plane ticket was just a phone call away and a visit to the doctor could be done without a mask. It was only in the final few essays that Trump and Covid-19 reared their ugly heads.


  • Brett has written six novels, plus one collection of short stories.
  • Six non-fiction collections (including this one).
  • Ten collection of poems.
  • Lily Brett’s official website

Favourite Quote:

‘Always begin with a good first line.’ he said.

Favourite or Forget:

Easy, undemanding time with an old friend.

Book: Old Seems to be Other People
Author: Lily Brett
ISBN: 9781761042348
Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
Published: 13th April 2021
Format: Hardback

13 thoughts on “Old Seems to be Other People | Lily Brett #AWWessays

    1. Too Many Men had a big impact on me when I read it twenty years or so ago, that’s for sure.
      And I remember reading one of her essays on ageing about a decade ago, when she was talking about how wonderful it was to discover weights and strength training as a 50+ woman. I promised myself I would do the same….so far I haven’t followed her fine example, but I keep meaning to!


  1. I loved Lola Bensky, enjoyed a short story collection (New York), tried another and found it repetitive. But I still think she’s a wonderful writer with important things to say about Holocaust survivors.


  2. I’ve not read her, but I have been enjoying some short pieces with a cup of tea/coffee and agree that a certain length is simply ideal. (BTW, your blog name no longer appears beside its logo in my Feedly reader…for those you look for you by name, they might be thrown by that…this kind of thing happens to me all the time, so I’m not mentioning it to be critical, only because I would want to know, if it was me, so that i could try to figure out a solution. Good luck!)


      1. No, no text at all. So, on the up-side it puts you directly to the top of the list, without a way to put you into alpha order. 🙂


        1. I read other people’s posts in Hotmail. Everyone’s post has the blog name beside it except yours Brona. Yours are attributed to WordPress. Comments are odder – some are attributed to Brona’s Books and some to bronasbooks.com


          1. Thanks. I’ve hopefully fixed this now for all the types of reader feeds out there. I can see that Feedly has now been fixed. Let me know what happens on Hotmail please Bill.


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