The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author shares vivid memories of her childhood and recalls the experiences that set her on the path to a writing life.
Ever since she received Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall as a Christmas present in 1936, Antonia Fraser's deep love of history has been a constant in her remarkable life. The book made such an impression that it inspired her to write Mary, Queen of Scots thirty years later.
Born into British aristocracy, the author's idyllic early childhood was interrupted by a wartime evacuation to North Oxford. The relocation had profound effects on her life, not the least of which was her education at a Catholic convent and her eventual conversion from the Protestant faith to Catholicism. Her memories of holidays spent at Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, a stint as "Miss Tony" selling hats in a London department store, and her early days working in publishing are all told in her singular, irresistible voice.
My History is a heartfelt memoir that is also a love letter to a British way of life that has all but disappeared. Anglophiles, history lovers, and Downton Abbey fans are sure to be enthralled.
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.