The diaries are a detailed chronicle of the everyday life of Alison Uttley for 40 years, from just after her husband's death and the publication of her first books up to her last years. There is a great deal of domestic detail, such as descriptions of the weather and the countryside, gardening, cooking and cleaning (trouble with maids etc), money, shopping, her neighbours and their visits, holidays to Devon and London (and later Guernsey), films and theatre, and books read.
More personal entries deal especially with her relationship with her son John (and later his wife Helen); dealings with other members of the family, such as her brother Harry and his wife Frances and son Ronnie, and the Uttleys, Emily, George, Gertrude and Alice K; her special friends, such as 'LM', 'GL', 'EM', Walter de la Mare, Margaret Rutherford and Professor Alexander; her Scottie dogs, Hamish, MacDuff, MacTavish and Dirk; money worries (especially in the early thirties); and her memories of her husband James, and her mother and father. Especially fascinating are the diaries covering the war years, when John was a POW in Germany.
Of course, the greater part of the diaries are devoted to her writing, including the anxieties and repeated rejections at the beginning, the surprise of success, dealings with publishers (Faber and Peter de Sautoy, the Collins family, and Heinemann) and the ever-growing royalty cheques, her relationship with the illustrators of her books (especially Margaret Tempest, with whom there were running legal battles over the Grey Rabbit books in the 60's), and broadcasts on radio and television. Her methods of working are lovingly documented here, and provide a fascinating insight into how her books were inspired and created.
Extracts from the diaries have been published in Denis Judd, The private diaries of Alison Uttley: author of Little Grey Rabbit and Sam Pig (Barnsley: Remember When, 2009).