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).
This magical memoir, told with inimitable humour and style, will take many readers back to their own discovery of History. It is an unforgettable account of one person's journey towards becoming a writer - and a historian.
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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)
'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)
The childhood and early life memoir of Antonia Fraser, one of our finest narrative historians.
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