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.
Eminent British historian and novelist Fraser (Perilous Question, Jemina Shore mysteries, etc.) devotes much of this witty, perambulating memoir of youth and early adulthood to the unlikely yet enduring bond of her curiously matched parents, who both became loyal Labour leaders, Catholic converts, and devotees of socialist causes. Fraser was the first of eight children; her mother was a college-educated daughter of a middle-class Oxford doctor. An early reader, she grew passionately attached to the "sheer vitality" of storytelling and a "primitive identification" with tragic heroines like Queen Matilda and Mary, Queen of Scots, the latter of whom would later feature in her first book. Fraser moved to a town near Oxford during the Blitz and attended a mostly boys' school called the Dragon. She was headstrong, taking a gap year before reading history at Oxford and engineering her own social debut in 1950. Her first job, as assistant at the publishing house of Weidenfeld and Nicholson, brought her into contact with the likes of Sonia Orwell (George Orwell's wife), novelist Angus Wilson, and photographer Cecil Beaton; her first marriage, to older Tory MP Hugh Fraser, followed a very brief courtship, and they had six children in 10 years. Her resolve to write a biography of Mary, Queen of Scots, resulted from a burst of competition with her mother. This memoir, nuanced and emotionally oblique in a most English fashion, offers a textured glimpse into a bygone era.