Tag Archives: history

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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Top 25 Reasons to Love England

The reasons to love England seem limitless to me. I could go on and on about crumpets and Peter Rabbit and Harrod’s and Cranford and Fanny Price. I’ve discovered that many of my fellow Americans are Anglophiles just like me, and they have their lists of reasons why they love all things British as well. Over time, I’ve compiled the top 25 reasons why Americans love England. You can read the original articles here and here. In fact, the first article is what inspired this blog. So enjoy, and let me know what your favorite things about England are in the comments below!

25) the Royal Guard

What’s black, white, and red all over?

24) Afternoon Tea

Sugar and a splash of cream, please.

23) Castles

Who wouldn’t want to live in a stone-walled, tapestry-lined fortress with straw for carpets and a drawbridge for a driveway?

22) Gardens

The English Garden is apparently a place to be proposed to, to ramble aimlessly on dull afternoons, to escape from unwanted suitors…

21)Double Decker Buses

Let’s just hope they aren’t too top-heavy…

20) Oxford

Second oldest university in the world – quite inspiring.

19) Pubs

They come in pints?

18) Royal Weddings

Occasions for gravity-defying hats and bell-ringing celebration, brought to you live on the BBC.

17) Rain and Fog

The perfect backdrop to the mysteries of Sherlock Holmes or the ramblings of drunken Dickens characters.

16) London

The center of Anglophilia! Everything your heart has ever desired can be found along the banks of the Thames…

15) the Accent

When I get to England, I will wander the streets, talking to random strangers just to hear their accents.

14) the Queen

Revolution or no, Americans still hold a tiny love of royalty.

13) Prince William

No longer on the singles list…

12) History

From ancient stone henge to William the Conqueror to Henry VIII to the knights of the round table…

11) the Way of Life

Rolling countryside, church steeples, knitting by the fireplace, making fresh butter… (apparently, this isn’t true anymore, and I’m living in a dream world)

10) Food 

Bubble and squeak? Hot toddy? Bangers and mash?

9) the Thatched Roof

pure cuteness!

8) the Cars

I wouldn’t mind driving around in a Mini Cooper.

7) the Red Telephone Booth

We don’t even have telephone booths in America… just phones nailed to the concrete.

6) Bond, James Bond

Classy, smooth, debonaire… Sean Connery.

5) Humor

The British have this subtle sense of humor that Americans just don’t have, and often don’t get.

4) Simon 

Simon, television sucks without you.

3) Drama

The BBC has the answers to everything.

2) Music

Perhaps it’s the accent, but I think that Brits can simply sing better than Americans.

1) Literature

Number one! English literature is one of the best gifts to mankind from mankind. Shakespeare, Jane Austen, John Keats, Tennyson, C.S. Lewis, Kazuo Ishiguro, etc. etc.

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