My Father's Fortune: A Life

Michael Frayn

My Father's Fortune: A Life

‘An unknown place.’ This was what Michael Frayn’s children called the shadowy landscape of the past from which their family had emerged. In this book he sets out to rediscover that lost land before all trace of it finally disappears beyond recall. As he tries to see it through the eyes his parents and the others who shaped his life, he comes to realise how little he ever knew or understood about them. This is above all the story of his father, the quick-witted boy from a poor and struggling family, who overcame so many disadvantages and shouldered so many burdens to make a go of his life; who found happiness, had it snatched away from him in a single instant, and in the end, after many difficulties, perhaps found it again. Father and son were in some odd ways ridiculously alike, in others ridiculously different; and the journey back down the corridors of time is sometimes comic, sometimes painful, as Michael Frayn comes to see how much he has inherited from his father - and makes one or two surprising discoveries about both of them along the way. 4.4 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
My Father's Fortune: A Life

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Biography
Format Hardback
Pages 272
RRP £16.99
Date of Publication September 2010
ISBN 978-0571270583
Publisher Faber & Faber
 

‘An unknown place.’ This was what Michael Frayn’s children called the shadowy landscape of the past from which their family had emerged. In this book he sets out to rediscover that lost land before all trace of it finally disappears beyond recall. As he tries to see it through the eyes his parents and the others who shaped his life, he comes to realise how little he ever knew or understood about them. This is above all the story of his father, the quick-witted boy from a poor and struggling family, who overcame so many disadvantages and shouldered so many burdens to make a go of his life; who found happiness, had it snatched away from him in a single instant, and in the end, after many difficulties, perhaps found it again. Father and son were in some odd ways ridiculously alike, in others ridiculously different; and the journey back down the corridors of time is sometimes comic, sometimes painful, as Michael Frayn comes to see how much he has inherited from his father - and makes one or two surprising discoveries about both of them along the way.

Reviews

The Sunday Times

Peter Kemp

...a masterpiece of stylistic, emotional, psychological and sociological exactness. Ranging from comic star turns, such as Frayn’s stepmother Elsie chattering about “chickens coming home to roast” and “chromion” flaking from “rodiators”, to passages of piercingly lucid Larkinesque melancholy, it adroitly modulates between humour and tragedy, ruefulness and celebration, intellectual keenness and elegiac depths of feeling. A writer who has long been one of our most engrossingly inquiring minds, Frayn has never written with more searching brilliance than in this quest for his past.

29/08/2010

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The Sunday Telegraph

Anne Chisholm

This is a very English story told in a very English way, without fireworks but with deep feeling… [A] marvellous book

05/09/2010

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The Guardian

Andrew Motion

...a book that feels at once genuinely delving, yet decently guarded. It's often very funny, always very interesting, and soaked in a wistful sort of melancholy that sometimes deepens into a compelling sadness... Frayn has written books that make a bigger bang than this, but none that is so touching.

04/09/2010

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The Independent

Boyd Tonkin

Tough on himself, tender on others, his loving but unsentimental evocation of the Ewell years will stand in its own right as a classic account of suburban childhood – as well as offering, for readers of his flawless novel Spies, a textbook revelation of how memory feeds fiction.

27/08/2010

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The New Statesman

Anthony Howard

...he is wonderfully good on atmosphere... In the vast canon of his work - 15 plays, ten novels, nine translations - this may not be his most significant contribution to the literature of our time. Yet it remains a refreshing addition to the oeuvre, not least for the light it throws on the character of someone who, for all his fame, has always been an intensely private individual.

30/08/2010

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The Daily Telegraph

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

...even without the autobiographical slant, this memoir would be a fitting tribute to the sort of figure who usually slips between the cracks of the historical record. Often funny, sometimes painful, but always exquisitely well written, it reveals the extraordinariness that can lurk in even the most ordinary of lives.

27/08/2010

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The Times

Benedict Nightingale

This is, for the most part, a beautiful, deeply felt book, though it does sometimes irk and occasionally bore. Frayn may be right to mock the teenage Michael as a sneering, thankless intellectual snob, but he goes on to make so many reproachful comparisons of himself with his father and others that I found myself accusing the adult Michael, on the book’s evidence, a sensitive and generous man, of an unappetising self-hatred.

28/08/2010

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