Author(s): Antonia Fraser
The childhood and early life memoir of Antonia Fraser, one of our finest narrative historians. Antonia Fraser's magical memoir describes growing up in the 1930s and '40s, but its real concern is with her growing love of history. A fascination that began with reading Our Island Story and her evacuation to an Elizabethan manor house at the beginning of the Second World War soon developed into an enduring passion, becoming, in her own words, 'an essential part of the enjoyment of life'. My History follows Antonia's relationship with her family: she was the eldest of eight children. Her parents Frank and Elizabeth Pakenham, later Lord and Lady Longford, were both Labour politicians. Then there are her adventures as a self-made debutante before Oxford University and a fortunate coincidence that leads to her working in publishing. It closes with the publication of her first major historical work, Mary Queen of Scots - a book that became a worldwide bestseller. Told with inimitable humour and style, this is an unforgettable account of one person's journey towards becoming a writer - and a historian.
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
Antonia Fraser is the author of many widely acclaimed historical works which have been international bestsellers. The awards she has won include the Wolfson History Prize and the Norton Medlicott Medal of the Historical Association. She has been President of English PEN, chairman of the Society of Authors, and chairman of the Crime Writers' Association. Antonia Fraser was made a DBE in 2011 for services to literature. Her previous books include MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, CROMWELL: OUR CHIEF OF MEN, KING CHARLES II, THE WEAKER VESSELL, WARRIOR QUEENS, THE SIX WIVES OF HENRY VIII, THE GUNPOWDER PLOT: TERROR AND FAITH IN 1605, MARIE ANTOINETTE, LOVE AND LOUIS XIV, and most recently PERILOUS QUESTION: THE DRAMA OF THE GREAT REFORM BILL. MUST YOU GO? MY LIFE WITH HAROLD PINTER was published in 2010. Antonia's website can be viewed at: http://www.antoniafraser.com