Memoir Review of My History by Antonia Fraser and BOOK GIVEAWAY

London-born and Oxford-bred, Lady Antonia Fraser, queen of biography, remembers her own life in My History: A Memoir of Growing Up. With anecdotes that speak to Fraser’s love of, and later career in, biographical history, this winding journey of memory will appeal to lovers of Fraser’s work as well as Anglophiles who want to explore life in England during the 1930s and 1940s. The book follows Fraser’s memories from early childhood through her beginnings in publishing.

My History: A Memoir of Growing Up by Antonia Fraser

A magical remembering of the bells ringing in Oxford start us out in the first chapter. Not yet three years old, Fraser witnesses King George V and Queen Mary on their Silver Jubilee, standing in a tower in Oxford. Throughout her childhood she speaks of castles and ancestral haunts. With such beginnings and surroundings, who can be surprised by Fraser’s later obsession with the history of the British?

Much of the first section of the book talks about Fraser’s parents, both of whom were very passionate politically and professionally. Coming from a privileged British family, Fraser was given a front row seat to her country’s workings as both her parents were involved in the government. She tells of canvassing door-to-door in her parents behalf and working on her mother’s campaign. This was a time Fraser remembers fondly.

Lady Margaret Hall Oxford “LMH Quad” by Sarah from UK

Those who are well-read in Fraser’s work will likely not be surprised by her interest in strong, fascinating women in history, such as Marie Antoinette and Mary, Queen of Scots. This attraction to the female anecdotes of history can be seen starting in Fraser’s childhood. Reading the works of Henrietta Marshall from the young age of four, Fraser quickly gained an interest in the aged past, and especially the noted women of history. As she read about Mary, Queen of Scots, Fraser put herself in the place of the fated Queen; this speaks to her intuitive ability to connect the past with modern readers.

Perhaps another reason Fraser portrays strong female characters is because of her mother as well as her own upbringing. Watching her mother run for government and speak with passion about her beliefs perhaps inspired the daughter in her own independence and personal passion. Fraser recounts the years she spent at a school once known as a strictly boys’ school and how she felt somewhat special about being in the small number of girls present. These experiences no doubt helped build Fraser’s own character as she later made a name for herself in publishing.

Through vivid details and charming narratives, Fraser brings her own life to the realm of biography. She peruses her past with a historian’s analysis combined with a grandmother’s reminiscence. It’s as if Fraser is taking a step aside from her lifetime career of literary work to make meaning of her experience and bring it all full circle.

Those familiar with the biographies of Antonia Fraser will find her childhood background enlightening, connecting pieces of her own past to her future fascination with history. But even those for whom My History is their first book by Fraser will enjoy her personal stories, her tales of living through World War II, school at Oxford, and her growing up surrounded by British politicians. For Anglophiles, My History provides a look at an England changing from pre-war to post-war; it gives the reader glances at the streets of Oxford as well as the publishing realm during the mid-century.

My History: A Memoir of Growing Up will be published in the U.S. October 13, 2015, but you can you pre-order your copy here.

Don’t forget to enter the book giveaway below! Doubleday has provided me with 2 copies of this wonderful book for my readers, so comment away and spread the word! Just follow the link and use your email to sign in. Then leave a comment or follow me on Twitter to enter the giveaway. Be sure to submit your entry THROUGH the Rafflecopter link below. Please let me know if this is not working for you and we will work it out :)

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Other works by Antonia Fraser:

Marie Antoinette: The Journey

Wives of Henry VIII

Mary Queen of Scots

The Weaker Vessel

The Gunpowder Plot
Thank you to Nan A. Talese/Doubleday for providing a galley for review.  


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Why British Expats Miss the Homeland

This summer, British Airlines posted this humorous video:

I’m not entirely sure if this an advertisement, or just a barely veiled complaint against typical British wetness. In any case, British Airways wanted to hear from British expats what they loved the most about the homeland. Apparently, there are over 750,000 expats from the U.K. living in the States alone (why they would ever leave the most magical place on earth in the first place is beyond me). And these Brits miss certain things about Britain. I miss them too, even though I’ve never been there. Here’s the original Facebook post where you can read all 3800 comments for yourself, but here are some of my favorite comments on the best things in the U.K.:

“British architecture, pubs, fish and chips, countryside and of course family and friends. oh and decent funny cards depicting British humour!”

“Yorkshire pud. Whitby kippers. Later evening dusky skies.and being called daft.”

“Fish and chips, wagon wheels, flake, crisps, biscuits, British TV/ humour….. Hearing the accent everyday….”

“The history, the beautiful countryside, the pubs, the pretty little villages, the seaside, fish and chips, the British sense of humour, M&S, I could go on and on.”

“British pubs in the summer. Afternoon walks to the pub, long nights chatting outside the pub, larger and lime in the pub, listening to British humour about people in the pub, (coz we can take a joke well), the barmaids, and barmen…and of course the crisps…the prawn cocktail, monster munch, Walkers Crisps!! Did I mention the pub?”

“Springtime in England when everything is fresh and green.”

“Walks in the woods, actually walking everywhere, real cheddar cheese, good bread, cadburys drinking chocolate, seasons, waitrose and M&S, Sunday roast, fizzy cider, malt vinegar on my fish and chips instead of ketchup, penny sweet shops, a perfect summer day in the park with a flake 99.”


This last commenter really says it all – everything about the U.K. makes me want to go there! British Airways you have me thinking it’s time for some travelling… Check out if you feel the same. They have some good deals by booking straight through the airlines. Here’s a word from British Airways: “As always, customers can take advantage of BA’s hold fare and reserve their flight on for up to 72 hours with a deposit of just $10, giving travelers time and flexibility to book without losing the original price. Additionally, Flight+hotel and flight+car packages booked on are eligible for deposit payment, allowing travelers to take advantage of early deals and budget for their trips – especially while the dollar is strong.” If you do fly across the pond, let me know about your experience! It will tide me over till I can make it one day.

If you would like to know my favorite things about the United Kingdom check out:

Top 15 Reasons Why Americans Love England

and, because the list is neverending:

Ten More Reasons Why Americans Love England

British Flag

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Here’s a Toast to Queen Elizabeth!

Not only is Queen Elizabeth the longest-lived monarch in Great Britain, but as of last week, she is now the longest reigning monarch. At the age of 89, Elizabeth has aged well and still serves as the head of the Royal Family with a grandmotherly smile. Sixty-two years of holding the throne with grace and dignity certainly deserve a toast of honor. So here’s to Her Majesty, the epitome of British splendor!

Queen_Elizabeth_II_1929 Age 3

Elizabeth at age 3

Queen Elizabeth coronation

Elizabeth on her Coronation Day June 2, 1953


A sunshiney photo of Queen Elizabeth II in 2007

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Why Great Britain Is Great Infographic

There’s a reason why it’s called GREAT Britain: in my opinion, it should be called Fantastic Britain, but maybe I’m getting carried away. If you don’t believe me when I say there are millions of reasons to love the UK, then check out this awesome infographic from the CityBase Apartments blog. This lists only twenty reasons, but they’re some of the best! You can check out the original post here. Let me know in the comment section why YOU love Great Britain!

20 Reasons Why Great Britain Is Great

20 Reasons Why Great Britain Is Great

Original post on CityBase Apartments


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Review of “London Road: Linked Stories” by Tessa McGovern

As the end of summer simmers down and autumn approaches, you may be looking forward to some quiet afternoon reading. Just the thing for a relaxing bookfest on the sofa, London Road: Linked Stories by Tessa Smith McGovern is a group of short short stories taking place in my favorite of all places: England.

london road cover

London Road: Linked Stories by Tessa Smith McGovern

The scene opens on an unusually hot morning outside, of all places, Chorley Prison. We meet Janice Bailey, recent inmate, as she sets off on a journey to London to restart her life. All she has to go on are a few pounds and a friend’s recommendation to a halfway house in the city. Having been in prison for manslaughter in self-defense, she doubts that anyone will ever take her in or give her a shot.

This lovely group of stories is essentially about second chances. Janice has a second chance to live again, with new friends, a new job, and new purpose. With each story, we meet a new character, someone linked with the rest. All the characters have come together in the city to find a new way of life, pulling the past’s baggage along with them. We meet Mandy, known for petty theft, on probation in a literary reading group. We meet Isobel, who’s on antipsychotic drugs and has a difficult relationship with her mother. We meet women who are obsessive, afraid, lonely. What do they have in common? They all come to this boarding house in London where life throws them one more chance to stay alive and keep going.

With the montage-feeling of Love Actually. London Road is written to lift your spirits and show you the hope that follows tragedy. Each character has been through life’s worst, but by the end, they find resolution and something to help them along. I suppose this is what the title could refer to: the journey each character takes from bad to good, from hopeless to purposeful.
Because of this forward-looking perspective, I recommend this book to anyone looking for an easy, uplifting read. Each story is quite short, and the entire book could be read in an afternoon.While at times I would have like a more in-depth look at the characters’ lives, it’s good to remember that these stories are purposed as flash fiction. McGovern manages to combine good storytelling and conciseness in London Road. I especially recommend this book to my fellow Anglophiles as the book also includes references to the Queen, afternoon tea, and pubs. What’s not to like?

You can find the e-book for free or $0.99 (depending on your Amazon membership) here!

Thanks to BookTrib for providing me with London Road to review.

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The Crimson Field Review

Boulogne, France. 1915. The world has cracked apart in devastating war. Soldiers eat, sleep, and die in muddy trenches dug across Europe. Those who aren’t killed are often injured and taken away from the front line to recover. They are not even taken to a full hospital but to an open-air camp on the French seaside. More importantly, however, they are taken care of by a group of healers: the nurses and doctors, military and civilian, who dedicate every moment they can to getting these wounded men back on their feet.

Programme Name: The Crimson Field - TX: n/a - Episode: Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: (c/w from back left) Sister Joan Livesey (SURANNE JONES), Sister Margaret Quayle (KERRY FOX), Matron Grace Carter (HERMIONE NORRIS), Lieutenant-Colonel Roland Brett (KEVIN DOYLE), Kitty Trevelyan (OONA CHAPLIN), Captain Thomas Gillan (RICHARD RANKIN), Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne (ALEX WYNDHAM), Corporal Peter Foley (JACK GORDON), Flora Marshall (ALICE ST CLAIR), Rosalie Berwick (MARIANNE OLDHAM) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Todd Anthony

The Cast of Crimson Field (C) BBC – Photographer: Todd Anthony

The Crimson Field gives an inside look on the lives of the nurses caring for British soldiers. With only a few months training, the three main characters start out on the job naïve as they have obviously grown up with the finer things of life, but they quickly gain experience with injuries, blood, and death.These girls prove their strength parallel to the millions of men fighting on the front.This may be France in the middle of World War I, but the doctors and nurses have claimed this tiny spot of land as British, hence the china teacups.

One of the things I enjoy the most about The Crimson Field is how the show looks into the complex dark side of World War I. History (told by the victors) likes to keep the story of the war as clean for the winning side as possible. The war was seen as a fight of good against evil in the world. But what this show brings out is the personal psychological trauma that war brings to those involved. Mental illness was highly misunderstood at the time and often equated with cowardice or lack of manly loyalty. We see one soldier, Lance Corporal Prentiss, sent back to the front when he is obviously suffering a form of post-traumatic stress. This has devastating effects on his health and well-being, and he is only one example of the many who suffered hell.

Programme Name: The Crimson Field - TX: n/a - Episode: Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:   - (C) BBC - Photographer: Nick Briggs

Red Cross Nurses – The Crimson Field (C) BBC – Photographer: Nick Briggs

The Nurses

Kitty Trevelyan (played by Oona Chaplin of Game of Thrones fame) at first has trouble with the standardized rules of the hospital, but soon she wins her way into the hearts of soldiers and doctors alike. As the show progresses, Kitty’s secret past is revealed bit by bit, leading the viewer more into her world of pain and regret.

Rosalie Berwick (Marianne Oldham) is a less likable character, but still relatable. It seems that she has never married and reached the age which her society defines as “old maid.” Her volunteer work is an escape from a kind of social prison, and she only “wish[es] she’d been braver sooner.” Unfortunately, her inexperienced past has grown a deep fear inside her, and fear can be mistaken as self-righteousness.

Flora Mashall (Alice St. Clair) is young-hearted and still innocent enough to be surprised by ugly side effects of battle and surgery. Though she at first seems like she will be the first sent home, she manages to show her innate strength when under stress. Soon after her arrival, Flora boasts about her skill with bandages, and the matron promptly sends her to boil, dry, and roll a hideous pile of bloody post-surgery cloths. She doesn’t complain though and gets to work.

Two other nurses who play important roles are Matron Grace Carter (Hermione Norris) and Sister Joan Livesey (Suranne Jones). Grace is head of the rest of the nurses, which means she makes the difficult decisions and bears the greatest burden for the sufferers who have come to the hospital. With her understanding and compassion, she is a good nurse, and with her resolve and strength, she is a great leader.

Sister Joan arrives shortly after the three volunteer nurses. She has more experience at nursing and is welcomed as a pair of expert hands. But she also has secrets in her past, and the war that rages close by haunts her in a way no one knows.

Of course, these are not the only important characters, as we have dashing doctors in Captain Thomas Gillan (Richard Rankin) and Captain Miles Hesketh-Thorne (Alex Wyndham), as well as an exemplary leader in Lieutenant Colonel Roland Brett (Kevin Doyle of Downton Abbey). But The Crimson Field is essentially about the women on the front, who may not have been fighting the battles but were winning the war by saving soldiers from death or comforting them in their last moments.

Programme Name: The Crimson Field - TX: n/a - Episode: Generics (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: (L-R) Flora Marshall (ALICE ST CLAIR), Kitty Trevelyan (OONA CHAPLIN), Rosalie Berwick (MARIANNE OLDHAM) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Todd Antony

Rosalie, Kitty, and Flora – The Crimson Field (C) BBC – Photographer: Todd Antony

The Crimson Field is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution. Thank you to PBS for providing me with a copy for the review!

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Poldark Blu-ray Giveaway

Do you love Masterpiece: Poldark? How does a free Blu-ray disc set of your latest English obsession sound? Thanks to our friends over at PBS Distribution, I am honored to host a giveaway for 5 copies of Poldark on Blu-ray. Could it get any better? If you are new to Poldark, be sure to check out my review here.

© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

© ITV plc (ITV Global Entertainment Ltd)

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below (be sure to link contact information or include some way for me to reach you in case you win! It’s easier if you sign in with Twitter or Facebook.) By leaving a comment on this post, you are agreeing to the following rules:


  • No purchase necessary
  • One entry per person. An entry is a comment on this post.
  • Entrants must be 18 years old or older and residents of the U.S.
  • Giveaway entries will be accepted from Friday, July 10 until 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015
  • 5 randomly selected winners will win the Complete First Season of Masterpiece: Poldark on Blu-ray, including extra bonus features. The run time of this program is approximately 480 minutes on 3 discs. The Blu-ray SRP is $49.99.
  • 5 winners will be selected at random from the comment section on this post. Only comments received before 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 20, 2015 will be entered. Winners will be announced Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Winners will have one week to claim prize.
  • Prizes can only be shipped to addresses in the U.S.
  • The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning
  • By entering giveaway, you are submitting the right to access your name for the winning entries as well as for use in a post revealing winners
  • If potential winner forfeits or does not claim prize, prize will be re-awarded in Sponsor’s sole discretion
  • Neither Rose West nor PBS Distribution is liable for any negative impacts as a result of the prize or giveaway
  • Prize is provided by PBS Distribution
  • Giveaway is regulated in the state of Michigan
  • Void where prohibited by law

So comment away! And don’t forget to share this post with your other Anglophile friends. Even if you don’t win, Poldark is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from PBS Distribution! So be sure to get in on the fun!

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