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My Father's Fortune: A Life [Paperback]

Michael Frayn
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2011

'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 . . .

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (1 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057127059X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571270590
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 145,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'This lovely, loving memoir is an attempt to quantify that legacy, written with effortless humour and grace.' -- Metro >> '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 so that is so touching.' -- Andrew Motion, Guardian >> 'A profound delight... With deft, witty touches, he resurrects the past.' -- Charlotte Moore, Spectator >> 'My Father's Fortune shows him at his very best. He expresses in a few words what it would take other writers several paragraphs to convey... And of course he is also extremely funny, possessing a quietly ironic tone that is pleasantly teasing and often self-mocking...the ease and fluidity of Frayn's prose... In the end, Frayn has written a letter of love not just to his father, but to his mother too.' -- Elizabeth Day, Observer >> 'A profoundly affecting study of family myths and legends.' -- DJ Taylor, Financial Times >> 'Forever alert to the inner processes of art and mind Frayn from time to time cuts away and nips backstage to show how the memoir machinery works. Yet, almost miraculously, this keen self-awareness never compromises the deep poignancy - and the rich comedy - of the story he has to tell. Here, as always, that's part of the trick of it for Frayn.' -- Boyd Tonkin, Independent >> 'What Frayn presents us with is an effort to establish his own identity by exploring "the unknown place" represented in his origins. It is, as one would expect from so accomplished a writer, beautifully done... he is wonderfully good on atmosphere.' -- New Statesman >> '[A] vividly written and moving memoir.' -- Evening Standard >> 'The comic gifts of one of our best contemporary writers are not wasted in this memoir. A very English story told in a very English way.' -- Daily Telegraph >> 'Marvellous memoir ... 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.' -- --Sunday Times 'Our Choice'

'Heartfelt memoir.' -- The Times >> 'Frayn's beautifully written memoir of suburban family life is both funny and deeply moving.' --Guardian

Book Description

A warm, funny and heartbreaking childhood memoir from one of Britain's best-loved writers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best since Spies 29 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Got really hooked on Michael Frayns books after reading Spies, which was such a beautifully written book filled with
nostalgia but not overly sentimental. This book I feel in written much the same vein and it evokes such vivid recollections you can almost smell the time and places it was written about.

If you enjoyed Spies this will not disappoint.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His Father's Smile 19 Jan 2011
How to review this marvellous, honest memoir without divulging too many story-salient facts? Frayn writes with an effortlessly light touch, but as we read, we learn that he has carried out considerable research, in registry offices, censuses and from family members. Charmer Tom Frayn turns out to be a stoic, nothing less, and heroic, too. To die practically penniless, yet having paid his way, given the world Michael and his sister, and smiled throughout, is truly a life worth saluting. And Michael Frayn - for all his scholarliness - relates all the pain, the love, the loss, and acknowledges his debts. The result is a heartfelt tribute. Wonderful.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Events and Emotions 26 Mar 2011
This memoir creeps up on you. At first I found it hard to separate the characters and stories of all the parents, grandparents and other relatives that were floating around at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries, but I suppose that's an aspect of lots of biographies. Slowly, though, definitive people emerge from the mist, and of course, Mr Frayn senior is the most colourful. The first question for the reader is why the title focuses on him alone rather than his wife as well, but the end of Part One answers that with a bang. Part Two is an effective social history of post-war England, and as his father's hearing starts to fade you get a real sense of Michael's relationship with him strengthening - through family bereavements, marriages, education, adolescence, careers, and eventually, new lives. Those are the 'events' but then there are all the father/son emotions - expectation, ambition, disappointment, embarrassment and pride. The real success, though, is the way the book tells all our stories, and the fact that the reader starts out perhaps a little indifferent to the subject of the tale, but ends up feeling a real sense of loss when he dies. That sense of not fully appreciating someone until it's (almost) too late couldn't be expressed more powerfully.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A father's life - beautifully remembered 7 Dec 2010
Having enjoyed Michael Frayn's novel Spies I was really looking forward to this auto/biography. It was both a beautifully created portrait of a father brought up in difficult circumstances who nonetheless managed to overcome an inauspcious start in life, tragedy and disability in later life. At the same time Frayn dscribes his own childhood, adolescents and parenthood acutely. My husband is of a similar age; having grown up in Surrey and with not dissimmilar family dynamics said it bought early periods of his life flooding back. Like many children it is only with the benefit of hindsight and experience with one's own children that you realise the worth of your own parents. This honest wart's and all picture of Tom Frayn made him intensely human and warm - a man you would have liked to have known. Frayn's structure and style take you effortlessly back to life before, during and after the war and the daily struggles of surviving Hitler, V1s, growing up and family life. We miss them when they are gone and while reading this thoroughly enjoyable book, I was not disappointed, there were moments when I reflected on my own Dad who I never valued enough when he was alive.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, Superb, Funny, Moving 3 Oct 2010
By T
Any fan of Frayn will enjoy this book tremendously. For a non-fan, there is no bad book to be introduced to the amazing wit and sly observations of Michael Frayn. His writing is so terrific the pages turn effortlessly. As for the subject of this book, it is a wonderful story about a family.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Frayn 31 Aug 2011
I read this thinking it would be a conventional sort of family history, a cruise through the census records etc. How wrong I was! It's much more an extended and proufound meditation on memory. It's about both the things about your immediate family and friends you remember but also the things you later realise you missed or tuned out or just neglected to bother with because you were too obssessed with the full-time business of growing up. The honesty and perceptiveness of this amazing exploration of his early years make this an emotional and heartfelt memoir of a new and more intense kind. Simply a beautiful, must-read book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treat 4 Oct 2010
Having read and loved "Spies", I had to read My Father's Fortune, which is not really a biography of Frayn's father, more of his own early years, and a delight. However, there are a number of literals in here, which is a shame. What has become of editing within publishing houses?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A BRITISH PROUST 20 Dec 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a factual account of Michael Frayn's father, and of his own early life. Everyone may have at least one book in them, and many of those books will be family memoirs; but the difference here is that Frayn knows how to write and that in some ways he had a highly unusual life. Reading the memoir brought back my own childhood, though my circumstances were very different.

I particularly like the description of the central importance of smoking in British life, prior to say 1960, when the fear of lung cancer started to undermine it. It was an innocent world, where there were no 'health warnings' and where we all used to give the grownups special cigarettes, and lighters, and cigarette cases for Christmas; and the family GP offered cigarettes while visiting sick relatives. 'It helps you to relax', he would say.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't believe the reviews, pompous gits
Not what I was expecting totally underwhelmed if this is the best that Britain has to offer ,God help the rest of the World
Published 21 days ago by Brian Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
One expects a good book from this author
And this doesn't let him down
Published 25 days ago by W R R Haines
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this story ...
....all of it. The honesty with which the strains, habits and nuances of families is wonderful. I am a long standing Frayn fan and his writing is just as funny, touching and clever... Read more
Published 3 months ago by J. E. Birch
4.0 out of 5 stars Stays with you
Thank you Mr Frayn for such a wonderful memoir.

Like stepping into a different world- his father's profound deafness and the way this never stopped him from providing... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bryonyreadsbooks
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor condition
This book was described as being in very good condition. It had crumpled pages and dried food stuck to the cover.
Published 6 months ago by Mrs P Coleman
5.0 out of 5 stars Frayn does it again
I've been a fan of Michael Frayn's since I was about sixteen and lucky enough to come across his columns in the old Manchester Guardian. Read more
Published 13 months ago by A. Rothwell
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Frayn's life of his father.
Wonderfully written and evocative of lost years. A moving portrait of a good man. It might enable others to detail their relationship with a parent
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. K. E. Smtih
3.0 out of 5 stars A family memoir
A well-written piece of social history, evoking memories for me of London in the forties and fifties, but it was like so many other stories in this genre and I got bored halfway... Read more
Published 14 months ago by La Joconde
4.0 out of 5 stars A better writer than the subject in the title?
I think it's not excusable in an author to write for publication what is virtually an autobiography, and state repeatedly that one's behaviour and actions at important times of... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Derek Jeary
5.0 out of 5 stars gentle genius!
A wonderful, moving memoir, beautifully written; a fine tribute to his father. It traces the overcoming of inter-generational conflict at a time when the grammar schools enabled... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Austen
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