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My History A Memoir of Growing Up by Antonia Fraser
  

My History A Memoir of Growing Up

Biography / Autobiography   

RRP £20.00

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Sue Baker's view...

Suitably for an historian, Antonia Fraser explores her life against her development into a writer and historian, the influences that made her take this path and the strong thread of history woven through her life experienced in family homes and from her ancestors, all providing a link to the past. She shares with readers her love for historical people and events, her awakening a joy in learning about the past and how it influences our lives and futures.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. In a captivating memoir, historian Antonia Fraser describes growing up, one of eight children. Born in Oxford, where her father, Frank Packenham, was a don at Christ Church, she enjoyed an idyllically happy childhood, despite the intervening war years. At the start of the war, the family spent a year with friends in an Elizabethan manor house, which, she says, ignited her interest in history. Surrounded by her parents’ intellectual friends, and at the Dragon School, she acquired a rigorous education that including playing ‘rugger’ After leaving St Mary’s Ascot aged sixteen, Antonia fairly whizzes through her time selling hats, and doing ‘the season’, before going up to Oxford, where her father was her tutor. After graduating, she fortuitously landed a job with young publisher George Weidenfeld, and met and married Hugh Fraser MP. Antonia ends her memoir with the publication of Mary Queen of Scots, and the rest, as they say, is history!
~ Fiona Lafferty

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Synopsis

My History A Memoir of Growing Up by Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser's memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern is with her growing love of History. The fascination began as a child - and developed into an enduring passion; as she writes, 'for me, the study of History has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life'. Born Antonia Pakenham, the eldest of the eight children of the future Lord and Lady Longford, her childhood was spent in Oxford, where her father was a don at Christ Church. Evacuation at the beginning of the war to a romantic Elizabethan manor house nearby was an inspiration for historical imaginings. There were adventures in Anglo-Ireland at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, each offering her treasured links to the past which became private obsessions. North Oxford wartime life included four years as one of the few girls then admitted to the Dragon School for boys, followed by time at a convent school after her family's conversion to Catholicism. Her father joined the Labour Government in 1945 as a Minister, which provided an odd background for exploits such as working in a Bond Street hat shop and a season as a self- made debutante. A job in publishing, by a fortunate coincidence, followed Oxford University and the book ends with the dramatic leap forward with the publishing of Mary Queen of Scots which became a worldwide bestseller to general amazement (including the author's).

Reviews

My History, a captivating memoir of her childhood and early youth...is a delight from start to finish. Antonia Fraser is warm, amusing, intelligent, generous and original. She says that her idea of perfect happiness is to be alone in a room with a house full of people. I can't think of a better way to start the year than to be alone in a room with this book. -- Cressida Connolly THE SPECTATOR Inevitably this chronicle is at first much concerned with her parents, her mother's literary skills, her father's rumpled person, the Leftish political endeavours of both, but gradually the clever girl takes over and her very ow History begins with the conviction that the medieval Matilda, Joan of Arc, Mary Queen of Scots and Marie Antoinette were much more interesting than the heroines of children's books. -- Brian Sewell THE OLDIE Venerable historian Antonia Fraser looks back on her formative years growing up in Oxford in the 1930s and 1940s. -- Charlotte Heathcote DAILY EXPRESS Lady Antonia Fraser begins this memoir of her youth with a quote from historian George Macaulay Trevelyan that captures the allure of history. The idea that once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women from ages past, gone as utterly as we ourselves shall shortly be gone like ghosts at cockcrow . -- Andrew Wilson THE INDEPENDENT The title of Antonia Fraser's memoir has two meanings. This is her history, in the sense that she is describing the early part of her long, garlanded life. But it is also an account of how she was drawn to history, which she traces back to a Christmas present she was given when she was four - HE Marshall's Our Island Story. SUNDAY TELEGRAPH One of the things Antonia Fraser remembers most fondly from her childhood was games of 'rugger'. 'All the girls at the Dragon [her school] in those days played rugger as a matter of course, there was nothing special about it.
Fraser played on the wing and found it

'intoxicating'. Years later, at an Army and Navy match at Twickenham, an enthusiastic general took it upon himself to explain the rules of the game to her, and had to be stopped after she assured him - to his incredulity - that she knew the game perfectly well. -- Lynn Barber SUNDAY TIMES In the final section of this engaging autobiography come fulfilment and resolution. There is marriage and a family of six children; there is a new and harmonious relationship with her mother, who herself became a historian of note ('now with my Small Children and her History', as Antonia puts it, 'we had all the most important things in common'); and with the acclaim greeting the publication of Mary, Queen of Scots there is the triumphant start of a long and distinguished career. -- Selina Hastings MAIL ON SUNDAY My History is a hugely enjoyable squishy romp, the literary equivalent of a big crumbling meringue at a society wedding. -- Roger Lewis THE TIMES - Book of the Week Fraser's previous volume of memoir, Must You Go?, an account of her life with Harold Pinter, was acclaimed as a moving love story. In this second instalment, she stands unabashed and alone - wise, self-deprecating and always entertaining. -- Peter Stanford DAILY TELEGRAPH She killed a viper in a sandpit as a toddler and at 23 began writing her own books: most notably chronicling the lives of Cromwell, Marie Antoinette and Mary Queen of Scots. Now Harold Pinter's widow charts the events of her own early life in a bid to inspire others to fall in love with history. -- Susanna Gross MAIL ON SUNDAY Antonia Fraser, the historical biographer and widow of playwright Harold Pinter, takes us on a fascinating journey through her formative years. GOOD HOUSEKEEPING Historian, debutante, useful rugger player - Lady Antonia Fraser has led a life of vivid contrasts. Her memoir of her relationship with the playwright Harold Pinter, Must You Go, gave a glimpse of a partnership of successful writers. in this second excursion into personal history she revisits the more distant realm of childhood. -- Jane Shilling EVENING STANDARD Dame Antonia Fraser's memoir about her early life is sheer delight. It is the story of her childhood, adolescence and early adult life, and it is also the story of her fascination with history, which led her to her first bestseller, the biography of Mary Queen of Scots, published in 1969. -- Allan Massie THE SCOTSMAN It is at its most engaging when she describes her own writing process, her deep fascination for history and the problems of its retelling. -- Kate Colquhoun SUNDAY EXPRESS Above all, what comes through was her success as a historian that has been achieved by determination and hard work. You can't help admiring this very grand lady. -- Vanessa Berridge DAILY EXPRESS It shows how one curious-minded girl born in 1932 became entranced by history from a young age; by doing this, it inspires us all to think about how the next generation should have their minds opened to history. -- Ysenda Maxtone Graham COUNTRY LIFE Engaging and elegiac -- Virginia Rouning FINANCIAL TIMES The childhood and early life of the distinguished historian Antonia Fraser is the focus of her memoir My History although its real concern is her growing love of history. CHOICE My History is a travelogue of the mind through the roaming delights of youth to the full realisation of the power of the past. It is an eloquent, candid and very funny account of growing up in exalted circles, but really, and really originally, it is a glorious paean to the poetry of history. -- Jessie Childs THE TABLET She writes every kind of anecdote, hard and soft, with a sustained, strong tone, inimitably her own and with always a smile behind a frown and a frown behind each smile. -- Peter Stothard TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT Antonia Fraser had, by her own account, an enchanted childhood, so much so that when she heard the bells of Magdalen College again more than 60 years later, wonderland once more returned . She dreamed she was the heroine of a fairytale, the beggar girl (intensely beautiful) who, armed with a first-class degree, wrote bestselling books . It was standard stuff for a girl growing up in Oxford whose father was a don at Christ Church, but not all dreams come true as emphatically as this one. -- Hilary Spurling THE GUARDIAN It is Fraser's own dynamism that shines out of this charming book -- Julia Richardson DAILY MAIL This elegant, charming memoir covers her early life and ends with the publication of her first book. -- Simon Shaw MAIL ON SUNDAY A hymn to Fraser's happy family background THE WEEK In all senses, this is a romantic memoir -- Lesley McDowell THE INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY The historian Antonia Fraser has a well-known father in the Labour Cabinet minister and penal reformer Lord Longford, but she perhaps owed more in career terms to her mother, Elizabeth Longford, a celebrated biographer. But as this warm, witty memoir of her early life reveals, Antonia Fraser has always been very much her own person. SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 'The childhood and early life of the distinguished historian Antonia Fraser is the focus of her memoir My History although its real concern is her growing love of history. CHOICE'


About the Author

Antonia Fraser

Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works including the biographies, CROMWELL: OUR CHIEF OF MEN, KING CHARLES II and THE GUNPOWDER PLOT (CWA Non-Fiction Gold Dagger; St Louis Literary Award). She has written five highly praised books which focus on women in history, THE WEAKER VESSEL: WOMEN'S LOT IN SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND (Wolfson Award for History, 1984), THE WARRIOR QUEENS: BOADICEA¿S CHARIOT, THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII, MARIE ANTOINETTE: THE JOURNEY (Franco-British Literary Prize 2001), which was made into a film by Sofia Coppola in 2006 and now most recently LOVE AND LOUIS XIV: THE WOMEN IN THE LIFE OF THE SUN KING. Antonia Fraser was made CBE in 1999, and awarded the Norton Medlicott Medal by the Historical Association in 2000. She lives in London and is currently working on a biography of Queen Elizabeth I. She was married to Harold Pinter who died on Christmas Eve 2008 and has eighteen grandchildren.

Below is a Q&A with this author.

What's the first book you remember reading?
Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall, when I was aged four and a half. I still have the copy, rebound after much use.

Where do you live? And why?
I have lived in the same house in Campden Hill Square since 1959; my six children were brought up here (two of them actually born in the house). I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Where do you write?
In the children's old nursery at the top of the house, rechristened the Eyrie. I couldn't wait to move in when they moved out as it has magnificent views.

Typewriter, word processor or pen?
Ancient electric typewriter (circa 1970) to which I am devoted.

Where were you born and raised?
Although I was born in Sussex Gate, Bayswater (now Ryadh House, I see), I was brought up in Oxford where my father taught at the University.

Did you enjoy school? What is your most vivid memory of your school years?
I loved two out of my three schools, the Dragon School, Oxford, and St Mary's Convent, Ascot, which was the setting for the first Jemima Shore mystery, Quiet as a Nun.

Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you originally want to be and when and why did you change your mind?
I didn't want to be an author. I just was an author since before memory.

What were the first pieces of writing that you produced? e.g. short stories, school magazine etc. I wrote mock Shakespearean tragedies in verse: I like to think I've got better.

What jobs did you have before you started writing?
I only had one job: working for Weidenfeld & Nicolson and they've published all my non-fiction ever since.

If your house were burning down, what would you save?
My black and white cat Placido – except he'd probably get out first.

Have any of your books been televised or made into films? Who by and when were they screened? The Jemima Shore crime stories were made into two TV series, Quiet as a Nun, starring Maria Aitken, and Jemima Shore Investigates, starring Patricia Hodge. Marie Antoinette has recently been filmed by Sofia Coppola.

What is a typical writing day?
I like to work the whole morning without interruption (in an ideal world!), then time off, for a swim perhaps, and back about 5.00 pm. I never work at night.

What do you do when you are not writing? How do you relax? What are your hobbies? I love reading other people's crime novels to relax.

Have you started your next book? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I'm going to write about Queen Elizabeth I. I always wanted to look at the other side of the picture since I wrote Mary Queen of Scots nearly 40 years ago and now it's time.

What single thing might people be surprised to learn about you?
I used to play rugger at the Dragon School! My children never believed me and I don't think my grandchildren do. On the wing, not in the scrum.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th January 2015

Author

Antonia Fraser

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Author's Website

www.antoniafraser.com/

Publisher

Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co

Format

Hardback
320 pages

Categories

Autobiography: literary

ISBN

9780297871903

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