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My History: A Memoir of Growing Up by…

My History: A Memoir of Growing Up

by Antonia Fraser

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Antonia Fraser is well known as a writer of detailed yet accessible historical studies, and in particular for her biographies of Mary, Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell. Here she turns to recounting her own story, chronicling her early years, painting a charming picture of her childhood, life as a student in Oxford and the early years of her writing career.

It is a life resonant with enigma. Her father was the unorthodox and frequently outspoken aristocrat and sometime Labour Minister, Lord Longford., and her mother also had celebrated family connections, being the great niece of the nineteenth century Radical, turned imperialist, Joseph Chamberlain, and cousin of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Despite her aristocratic background her family was resolutely socialist, with both her parents fighting several elections as Labour candidate. Antonia inherited her parents' deep interest in politics, and eventually married an MP, Sir Hugh Fraser, though surprisingly, given her socialist pedigree, he was a Conservative. In 1961, her father inherited the title of Earl of Longford following the death of his elder brother. At that point Antonia, as the daughter of an earl, became known as 'Lady Antonia Fraser'.

She gives an enchanting picture of life in Oxford between the World Wars, and her performance at school, but most enthralling for me was her depiction of the brief period during which she lived with her aunt, Lady Violet Powell and her husband, author Anthony Powell. He is perhaps my favourite author and I have read his massive roman fleuve 'A Dance to the Music of Time' more times than I can count. It is fascinating to see Lady Antonia's identification of the originals of some of the characters in the novel sequence. After all, her father has often been seen as the prototype for Erridge, the troubled aristocratic socialist campaigner.

Lady Antonia writes with great clarity, and a fair amount of self-deprecation, and brings the same charm and ability to grip the reader's attention that is characteristic of her historical works. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Dec 28, 2015 |
Slightly tedious emphasis on her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Writing felt a bit pedestrian. Disappointing as she writes very good history books. ( )
  maizie2004 | Feb 8, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antonia Fraserprimary authorall editionscalculated
Wilton, PenelopeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Antonia Fraser's memoir of growing up is not only an attempt to recapture the experiences of her Oxford childhood and youth -- in Shakespeare's phrase, to 'call back yesterday, bid time return.' It is also a chronicle of the progress of her love of history since her first discovery of it as a private pleasure when she was a child in the 1930s--her history, as she believed it to be, for the study of history (as her books subsequently attest) has always been an essential part of the enjoyment of life. When Antonia received as a Christmas present a copy of Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall in 1936, it engendered a lifelong interest in history, firing her emotion to write the story that thirty years later became the globally bestselling Mary Queen of Scots. Antonia's mother, born Elizabeth Harman, was the daughter of a Harley Street doctor; her father, Frank Pakenham, was the second son of the Earl of Longford. With the coming of war, Antonia's happy childhood in the Sussex of Puck of Pook's Hill was succeeded by an evacuation to an Elizabethan manor house near Oxford, which had a profound effect on her imagination. A North Oxford upbringing, including life at the Dragon School, followed, and later a Catholic convent which she attended as a Protestant and emerged as a Catholic. In the meantime, holidays included adventures with relations in Anglo-Ireland at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, before rather less glamorous work experience as 'Miss Tony' in the hat department of a famous London store. After Oxford University came a job in publishing, a fortunate coincidence for one whose sole ambition was to write--and to write history. Her magical memoir, told with inimitable humor and style, is an unforgettable account of the making of a great narrative historian"--… (more)

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