Tag Archives: british

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.”

“Everything!”

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 ba.com 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 ba.com 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 ba.com 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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Yardley Advertisements from the 1960s

Looking over Yardley ads from the past century, I find it interesting that the British toiletry company has kept up with modern times while retaining its elegant and even sophisticated reputation. Some of my favorite Yardley ads are from the 1960s when Mod culture was high in Swinging London. The fashion trend that Yardley helped promote seems to have been full of hopefulness and a sense of security, which I find refreshing living in a time when emaciation and extremism seem predominant in fashion.

Twiggy was one of the most popular models of the time, and she started modeling for Yardley in 1967, advertising Twiggy eyelashes and paint.

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photo courtesy ~ pictify.com

But Twiggy wasn’t the only face of Yardley. With the release of Romeo and Juliet in 1968, Olivia Hussey became the image of romance.

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photo courtesy ~ pictify.com

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photo courtesy ~ pictify.com

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photo courtesy ~ Musings from Marilyn

Twiggy and Olivia Hussey are my favorite models from the ’60s… do you have any?

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photo courtesy ~ pictify.com

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photo courtesy ~ Carnabetian Army

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photo courtesy ~ John Bull & Uncle Sam

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photo courtesy ~ Hair and Makeup

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The Doom of the Dumpy Sweater

Upon watching an Agatha Christie’s Poirot mystery last week, I stumbled upon a startling realization. The requirement for being truly English: you must own at least one dumpy sweater. I do not say this to cause any offense, and I realize this is probably not even relatively true. But watch the British telly, and you will notice that more often than not, every character (who isn’t a wealthy aristocrat, anyway) wears a dumpy sweater at some point.

These sweaters aren’t inherently ugly, not like The Ugly Christmas Sweater. They are plain, of questionable color. They have similarly undistinguished buttons down the front. So they aren’t ugly in an obvious way. They are Frowzy. That is the word. Frowzy.

This is a disheartening doom. To be truly British I must, and at any cost, attain a frowzy dumpy sweater, wear it with anything and everything, and hope the Fates will finally accept me into the Kingdom.

Frowzy Sweaters 1 and 2 - A&E's Poirot - "The Hallowe'en Party"

Frowzy Sweater 3 - A&E's Poirot - "The Hallowe'en Party"

Frowzy Sweater 4 - A&E's Poirot - "The Hallowe'en Party"

Frowzy Sweater 5 - A&E's Poirot - "The Hallowe'en Party"

Frowzy Sweater 6 - A&E's Poirot - "The Hallowe'en Party"

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Anglophilia

So what is an Anglophile exactly? The roots of the word come from Latin and Greek, meaning “English” + “Friend”. According to the world’s best and worst encyclopedia – Wikipedia – “Anglophilia represents an individual’s appreciation of English history. Alongside Anglophiles who are attracted to ‘traditional’ English culture … there are also Anglophiles who like pop and rock music from England and the other countries of the UK … as well as British news and  entertainment … and British cars … and British contemporary culture in general. Fondness of the British Monarchy, British bureaucracy … as well as British Empire nostalgia and the English class system, may also be considered Anglophilia.”

There you have it. An Anglophile is simply someone who isn’t English and yet loves everything and anything about England. If you are an Anglophile, you will know this already, but if you aren’t, you might want to know how to spot one for scientific purposes. Some common symptoms of an average Anglophile are:

  • commited to watching Masterpiece Theater every Sunday night, especially when an import from BBC is on
  • spells things differently on purpose, for instance: “gray” becomes “grey”; “theater” becomes “theatre”; “spelled” becomes “spelt”; etc.
  • drinks tea instead of coffee; advanced cases refuse to drink anything but British import
  • gets into heated debates on the slightest provocation about whether the 1995 version or the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice” was better
  • occasionally wakes up in the morning speaking in a British accent
  • would rather watch Monty Python than Saturday Night Live anyday
  • reads old English books as quickly as if they were comic books
  • knows what “snogging” means
  • gasps in disbelief when Jane Austen is misquoted (“Lost in Austen,” how could you??)
  • checks the weather in London on a regular basis

These are only a few of the consequences of rampant Anglophilia. If you or someone you know is an Anglophile, there is no need to feel ashamed! You are not alone – there is a whole world out there of people obsessed with England. Together we can change the world!


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