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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 September 2010
Lady Antonia Fraser has written an interesting account of her life with playwright Harold Pinter. They met, while married to other people, in their mid-40's and fell head-over-heels in love. After leaving her husband - Hugh Fraser, with whom she had six children - Antonia lived with Pinter while they waited for their respective divorces to become final. They married a few years later. All in all, they were partners for 33 years until Pinter's death in 2008.

Fraser was a famous author of historical biographies and novels when she met Pinter. She kept a diary - referred to in her memoir - and supplemented the entries with updated notes. As with any autobiography/memoir, the reader can only suppose the author is being truthful in her writing. Fraser writes about working, traveling, keeping a home, and socialising with Pinter. During their time together, Pinter wrote about 10 plays, and he also acted in movies. Theirs was a full-throttled pace - and Fraser is not shy about naming names of the famous people with whom they associated. Pinter and Fraser were active in liberal politics and liberal social issues, both in the UK and outside it. Traveling to Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe, and Israel, they participated in peace rallies and other social protests.

I enjoyed the book but I'm not sure in the end if it wasn't a recitation of places, events, and people. I "know" because I was told how much Fraser and Pinter adored each other and made a wonderful life together, but the knowledge comes from facts and not feelings as expressed by Fraser.
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on 19 February 2010
I enjoyed this glimpse of Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser's life together. It was at heart, a simple love story, told graciously and openly, yet discreetly and with dignity. While their story was intriguing in itself, as interesting was the life they led, the friends they had and the views they held. What was missing for me, was a little more about the impact of their love story on the people around them. How did Antonia's children take the breakup of her first marriage? What about the practicalities of access to the children after the break-up? Yet, the book doesn't claim to be an autobiography, so I guess there was a logic to these omissions. But, yes, I'm glad I read it and I enjoyed it.
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"Must You Go?" is by Lady Antonia Fraser, British author of many popular biographies of historical, frequently female figures, best-known, perhaps,Mary Queen Of Scots and Marie Antoinette; and a brief detective series featuring Jemima Shore, television news presenter. Lady Antonia is the daughter of a well-known literary family, known as, alternatively, the Pakenhams, or Longfords, who are almost as famous as the Mitford sisters of the 1930s. The book at hand is a memoir of her unlikely 33-year love affair/marriage with Harold Pinter, CH, CBE, internationally known British actor/playwright/screenwriter/theater director/left-wing activist and poet.

Pinter was among the most influential British playwrights of the twentieth century. In 2005, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature: Lady Antonia says within this book that he turned down a knighthood. His writing career spanned over 50 years; he produced 29 original stage plays, 27 screenplays, many dramatic sketches, radio and TV plays, poetry, one novel, short fiction, essays, speeches, and letters. His best-known plays include "The Birthday Party" (1957), "The Caretaker"(1959), "The Homecoming" (1964), and "Betrayal" (1978), each of which he adapted to film. His screenplay adaptations of others' works include "The Servant" (1963), "The Go-Between" (1970), "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1981), "The Trial" (1993), and "Sleuth" (2007). He also directed almost 50 stage, television, and film productions; furthermore, he acted extensively in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others' works. Mind you, his works were widely considered avant-garde, not particularly easily accessible, and were not necessarily universally beloved. At any rate, Pinter died on Christmas Eve, 2008.

An unlikely romance? Pinter was Jewish, an East End boy, son of immigrants, and Antonia was very much a daughter of the establishment. And, when they met, each had been married for eighteen years: he to Vivien Merchant, widely-esteemed actress, they had one child. She, to Hugh Fraser, Scottish Member of Parliament, they had six. But the couple clicked immediately, and went on to make a life together, enjoying each other's work, their battles to better the world, their international travels. "Must You Go?" based on the diaries the author kept during the time, is funny, tender, intimate: a love story, a sketch of two creative artists at work, and of British bohemian high society.

The largely chatty, informally-written book surely drops a lot of names, mostly without explanation, unfortunately. Few will likely be known on my side of the Atlantic; even fewer to those substantially younger than the author, on both sides of the Atlantic. The author, Lady Antonia - and, in the book, she explains why she should be so addressed, not as Lady Fraser, or Pinter, or whoever--argues that she is not an establishment figure. She says she was raised in North Oxford - her father taught at the university there, Oxford, until he unexpectedly inherited family estates and a lordship. She did not, therefore, pick up the title of "Lady," until she was 30, she says, and adds that, by that age, she had been supporting herself in journalism and publishing for nine years. I've read at least Quiet as a Nun (Jemima Shore Mystery), her first Jemima Shore book, and found it too mild for my taste. If you are interested, it was filmed for British television, and is buried in ARMCHAIR THRILLER, SERIES 10. JEMIMA SHORE INVESTIGATES was a 12 episode TV series, also quite mild, made in 1983. Each is only spottily available. Sofia Coppola based her recent film Marie Antoinette [DVD] [2006] on Lady Antonia's book of the same name.

Of course, as Lady Antonia reaches her husband's final, long illness, which he bravely fought, her memoir gets much more serious and moving. But earlier on, she does quote a charming little poem she wrote to him, about the game of bridge, which they mutually loved:


You're my two-hearts-as-one
Doubled into game
You're my Blackwood
You're my Gerber
You're my Grand Slam, vulnerable
Doubled and redoubled
Making all other contracts
November 27, 1983.

Well, more years ago now than either Lady Antonia or I would like to recall, well before Pinter was in her life, I did interview her for an American newspaper, and found her, as you can surely guess, attractive, charming, and personable. And she gave me a great line that I suppose she'd successfully used before, that resulted in the interview's selling itself to further publications, including "Readers' Digest." She found, she said, that she benefited from the "after all" theory. People would say that perhaps her books were not the greatest. But, after all, she did have six children. Others might say that the six children were not the best-behaved; but after all, she did write books. Lady Antonia has raised six children and written many books. This one, I'm told, has been a best seller in the United Kingdom; it may not be that widely-appreciated on my side of the pond, but by all means read it if you like this kind of thing.
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on 7 March 2012
Ok we all have to eat, but Antonia and Harold seem to have spent the whole of their middle-age eating lunch. That they were blessed by such a stream of fascinating luncheon companions presumably allowed them to survive without becoming obese. The book is often entertaining a occasionally amusing but Valerie Grove of the Times must be either odd or a friend of the authoress to have described this book as being "very funny". How wonderful for the great writer to have found such enduring happiness. But with one significant exception (Betrayal) Pinter's greatest plays were written before he met Lady Antonia Fraser - perhaps a surfeit of contentment stifles the creation of masterpieces?
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on 20 May 2015
I must assume Lady Antonia Fraser needs no introduction. This book is mostly constructed from the author's contemporary diaries, edited and commentated upon where appropriate. Although with hindsight, as a method it is not the less successful for conveying the scale of her passion and joy in the company of Harold Pinter, a passion and joy which was clearly reciprocated. That by this love she felt justified in leaving her marriage to Hugh Fraser MP, by whom she had six children, is testament indeed to the depth and intensity of feeling they had for each other. And choosing to do this in Antonia's case in spite of converting to Catholicism like her father Lord Longford ! Eventually after many years together their respective spouses died and they were able to celebrate a marriage.

There is a lot of travelling. A great deal of company, mainly the bohemian elite which included many of the movers and shakers in thespian and cinematic circles. And a great deal of eating in mainly illustrious London establishments ! But these are the highlights of two lives that knew all about hard graft.

The story ends with a poignant crescendo of dramatic climaxes as Pinter is showered with honours, even while he is fighting cancer over the last seven years of his life. Most notable was the Nobel Prize for Literature, but he was also made a CBE and a Companion of Honour to Her Majesty the Queen. This is Antonia's story and we learn how she coped realistically and responsably with what she termed "The Great Fear" that invaded her life. It is a heart-breaking tale.
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on 17 February 2010
I couldn't disagree more with the two reviews I have just seen on Amazon; "Must You Go?" tells us the story of two people and their journey of falling in love, throughout a long and very happy marriage with a heart-wrenching ending when Harold Pinter dies. It shows us a softer side to Harold Pinter that many or most people would never have known existed, as an extremely loving husband and grandfather and friend.

Of course, as both Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser have enjoyed successful careers they mixed with other high profile people who are then mentioned in the book - I don't think anyone would find a meeting between Joe Bloggs and his mate in Pizza Hut that fascinating - but perhaps the other reviewers imaginations cannot run to anything other than something close to their own lives. Antonia Fraser's book allows us to dip into a world that most people will not experience for themselves, which for me is what reading is all about.

I found this book took me to a wonderful world rich in culture, literature, fame and above all told me that whatever the situation you can find your soul mate in the most unexpected places and perhaps in the most unexpected person at any time in your life.

I would (and have) highly recommend this book.
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on 1 October 2011
Fragments of Antonio Fraser's diary related to her marriage with Harold Pinter. A true testimony of their love with loads of interesting anecdotes about their social life as a couple (friends, acquaintances, events, etc.). Although the book touches on a number of political and religious themes, none of these is further analyzed or developed, which make it a nice 'light' read.
At the same time this is also my only issue with the book, that it remains just that: a collection of anecdotes. Perhaps in retrospect it would have made more sense if Antonia Fraser had taken one or more personal themes (e.g. the fact that both of them left their partners with whom they had children in order to start their relationship) and/or 'professional themes' (such as Harold Pinter's left wing stance on politics or Antonia Fraser's attitude versus the Roman Catholic church) and developed them a bit deeper, say in 2-4 pages. This would be very valuable since the diary fragments refer a number of times to these themes.
Since their work (naturally) plays a central role in this book, I guess the book will be primarily interesting for people who either like the work of Antonia Fraser, the work of Harold Pinter or both.
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on 17 February 2010
A very disappointing book lacking continuity and obsessed with name-dropping. I would not recommend this book to anyone. John Green
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on 14 April 2015
What a pain this woman is, far from intelligent writing and too self indulgent.
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on 22 February 2011
Because Private Eye introduced me to Antonia Fraser in the guise of Lady Magnesia Freelove in the early 70s, I was prepared to laughingly pour scorn on both the concept of making public a private life , in which the wife features a lot and also upon the end product. Usually, the only revelations of this type I fully enjoy are the ones that manage to be successfully funny throughout, or those diaries and memoirs that are works of art in themselves and help the reader understand something important about an era or a life. Must You Go does not really achieve either of these things. However...

I finally bought the book,at a lower price after it had been out for several months. I had heard and read some of the PR puffery, pre publication, and thought this is going to be so self congratulatory, indulgent and gossipy, which it is in some ways. But it is also hugely revealing about Pinter. It is true, there are a number of sections in the book which lend themselves to parody of the Private Eye type - champagne socialist sections, vignettes of the Campden Hill lifestyle, the annual travels to Barbados, the exclusive poetry readings at home, dinners at the Ivy and other eateries of the literati, and no mention of the home help or the ironing, but...

Ultimately, it is a book about a genuine and long-lasting love between two comfortably situated people over a period of 33 years. This strong-willed woman submitted to Pinter and he, in turn although probably less often,submitted to her. She gave him everything he needed, and he needed a lot. Insecure in many ways (as she is about her writing) he had become used to disappointment early. (The initial failure of the Birthday Party for example and, in his first marriage). He had at least two long and passionate love affairs while married to the actress Vivien Merchant. But, by the time he met Antonia Fraser when he was 44 and she 42, he had bathed in glorious accolades for almost two decades. He was a literary giant.

The body of work that made Pinter one of the greats of post-war playwriting was largely behind him when he met Antonia Fraser. She admits they were from completely different backgrounds. He a Jewish atheist with East End roots, she a Catholic patrician with an eccentric, fairly penniless, difficult but socially-conscious Earl for a father. One feels she gained most strength of character from her strong, devoted and balanced mother.

Pinter worries about money a lot but buys expensive Italian suits. Antonia earns a living by writing historical biography about famous Kings and Queens. She negotiates the possession of an up market address in London with her former, Scottish estate owning husband, Hugh Fraser, when they divorce. (There was never any "togetherness" there, as she puts it.) Her religion and her parents make leaving Hugh for Harold a testing time. But this is the 70s. It is telling however, that even after 25 years of marriage, Antonia does not know how much money Pinter has. Almost a throwback to Edwardian times. Did he know how much money she had?

A revealing portrait of Pinter the writer and Pinter the man builds,layer on layer, through the episodic diary form. There is the poetry- and the verse. (Least said, apart from one poem on Death which is very good). There is the expansion of his political causes and activity which, rooted in protest against Chile and Nicaragua, expands to the Eastern Bloc and in particular to Czechoslovakia, and later to Kosovo and the Iraq War. Antonia follows, without guile and moves from a liberal conservative position to becoming an independent minded activist for artistic causes. She votes Labour in 1992 and 1997. Her new found politics don't come naturally. (She seems to have little understanding of deprivation and social injustice and is not a political animal like her husband.)

Pinter spends time on poetry verse and screenplays in his more mature years. He also finds joy in performance (readings, acting) and people find joy in his performances. He has a marvellous voice. But his greatest joy is in Antonia, and their enviable warm family life, the six well-married children (all from her marriage to Hugh Fraser) the 18 grandchildren. (Pinter was an only child and he is, early on, it seems unwillingly, estranged from his own son by Vivien Merchant),

A man, lustful by all accounts in his early and middle years, with a powerful personality and passionate nature, gradually diminishes physically when he gets cancer of the oesophagus. In 2005, to their shock and delight he is given the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is too ill to go to Stockholm so writes a speech and records it for Television. It is a wonderful, powerful speech, just held back from being a rant, given at the right time weaving in lucid, spellbinding commentary on Art with a steely sharp and accusatory treatise on the consequences of the Iraq War and Blair's betrayal. The shame is, More 4 is the only channel to carry it.

Pinter's physical descent takes six years and is tragic, poignant, horrific, yet marked by courage and deepest tenderness on both his and her part. These final chapters of the diary are profoundly moving. (The other great love in Pinter's life is Simon Grey, who does not get enough of a mention early on.)

Antonia Fraser is one of those who values and believes in a lasting and eternal love, ( she visits the Arundel Tomb quite early on and sees 'What survives of us is love'). She is fortunate to have not only found a deep and lasting love in her chosehn companion fopr a large part of hedr life but contributed to making it so. And she has so many children and grandchildren to conmfort her final years. For that she is a remarkably lucky woman. She is also a good'un just like Harold.
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