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My Father's Fortune : A Life by Michael Frayn

My Father's Fortune : A Life

Biography / Autobiography   The Real World   
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Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award 2010.

Costa Book Awards 2010 Judges' comment:
"A delightful and wholly unsentimental memoir that balances beautifully the twin responses of tears and laughter."

Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 4 November 2010.

Shifting from personal recollection to documentary sources, family anecdotes to historical records, Michael Frayn’s autobiographical record is a superb look at family relationships and growing up. His father, the central pivot of the book, is wonderfully observed and we are given a portrait of a man who by force of personality, ability and drive journeyed far from the poverty that marked his early life. Written at the insistence of his own children, Michael Frayn’s book is also a gift to his father, Tom Frayn, a seemingly ordinary man in the crowd, made extraordinary by this memoir. Has to be one of my books of the year.

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If you like Michael Frayn you might also like to read books by Jonathan Coe, David Lodge and Howard Jacobson.

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My Father's Fortune : A Life by Michael Frayn

'An unknown place.' This was what Michael Frayn's children called the shadowy landscape of the past from which their family had emerged. In this book he sets out to rediscover that lost land before all trace of it finally disappears beyond recall. As he tries to see it through the eyes his parents and the others who shaped his life, he comes to realise how little he ever knew or understood about them. This is above all the story of his father, the quick-witted boy from a poor and struggling family, who overcame so many disadvantages and shouldered so many burdens to make a go of his life; who found happiness, had it snatched away from him in a single instant, and in the end, after many difficulties, perhaps found it again. Father and son were in some odd ways ridiculously alike, in others ridiculously different; and the journey back down the corridors of time is sometimes comic, sometimes painful, as Michael Frayn comes to see how much he has inherited from his father - and makes one or two surprising discoveries about both of them along the way ...


After the brilliant plays-both comic and cerebral-and the subtle novels, one of our best contemporary writers has made the family memoir his own. Not a line, still less a thought, is stale or predictable. -Anne Chisholm, The Daily Telegraph (UK) Genuinely delving, yet decently guarded, My Father's Fortune is often very funny and soaked in a wistful sort of melancholy that deepens into a compelling sadness. Frayn has written books that make a bigger bang, but none that is so touching. -Andrew Motion, The Guardian (UK) Ranging from comic star turns to passages of piercingly lucid melancholy, My Father's Fortune adroitly modulates between humor and tragedy, ruefulness and celebration, intellectual keenness and elegiac depths of feeling. A writer who has long been one of our most engrossingly inquiring minds, Frayn has never written with more searching brilliance than in this quest for his p

About the Author

Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and began his career as a journalist on the Guardian and the Observer. His novels include Towards the End of the Morning, The Trick of It and A Landing on the Sun. Headlong (1999) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while his most recent novel, Spies (2002), won the Whitbread Novel Award. His fifteen plays range from Noises Off to Copenhagen and most recently Afterlife. A collection of his travel writing, Travels with a Typewriter, was published in 2009, and a memoir, My Father's Fortune, in 2010. In April 2012 Michael Frayn was awarded the Sky Arts South Bank Lifetime Achievement award. He is married to the writer Claire Tomalin.

Author photo © Ekko von Schwichow

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2011


Michael Frayn

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Faber and Faber


272 pages


Biography / Autobiography
The Real World

Autobiography: literary



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