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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 24 February 2016
Insubstantial and un-illuminating. Very self-serving - but then that is the nature of the auto-biography...
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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 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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on 8 October 2015
A wonderful book even if you never saw or read anything by Pinter. Its a true love affair with 2 strong personalities. As a male reader I bought it for the Pinter material of which there is enough to make me very happy. I was then involved with their long term love affair and life in a way I had not expected to be. My wife also enjoyed this book; so good value was obtained! The Beckett/ La Couple anecdote is worth the purchase price alone.
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on 17 February 2010
Save for the last part of the book which deals with Harold Pinter's cancer this was on a par with "Dairy of a Nobody" with the Pinters being a more literate version of the Pooters. The book inflates the self importance of the these literati who travel the world reading poetry to each other and to fellow members of their exclusive set while not recognising that the vast majority of us get on with our lives neither knowing nor caring about their latest trip to wherever where they were always greeted with great acclaim. I was particularly struck by a description of their visit to Belfast where a Professor of Literature told them that poets in Northern Ireland "felt they were contributing something to the country --that something being moderation." I am so glad for without their efforts we might have had more than 3000 dead in "the troubles"! I really don't know what this book was for.
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on 31 May 2015
The book is in fact, part of Antonia Fraser's diaries during their marriage. It is, of course, about Fraser and Pinter but ir is also a fascinating portrait from time to time of their interesting friends in the theatre, art and writer's world. Last but certainly not least, Fraser and Pinter come through as very special people indeed.
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on 7 February 2011
This book takes the form of a diary to go over the 33 years of common life of Harold Pinter and Antonia Fraser.

The diary form reduces the book sometimes to an inventory of names (usually famous), places and dates and there are many anecdotal dairy entries.
However, all this is forgotten when the reader finds a gem: a beautiful poem, a poetic paragraph, a witty remarks.
What about: "I always loved Scotland in winter: the bareness of the outline of the country, like a Japanese watercolour, mountains, snow-cap, stark trees, and the beauty of the short-lived light in the middle of the day when it is treasured."
Or one of Harold pinter's poem:
"To my Wife
I was dead and now I live
You took my hand
I blindly died
You took my hand
You watched me die
And found my life
You were my life
When I was dead
You are my life
And so I live"

The best way to enjoy the book is probably to skip quickly over the anecdotal and stop and savor some of the less factual entries.
In any case, the book fulfills our taste for voyeurism allowing us to peer into very glamorous lives. It was very enjoyable to share with Harold and Antonia dinners with Salman Rushdie, Tony Blair, months in a suite at the Claridges in New-York or travel with them in Venice or Paris.

It is also striking to see the importance of words and literature in their life. It seems that their relationship was anchored in words, either conversations on various subjects, poems and love letters or sometimes just a witty remarks. Their hobbies evolved also around literature: a lot of reading, poem recitation, travel to writer's tombs, meetings with other writers, theatre etc...

Love is present all through the book. It is a deep love built on immense admiration. It is always present but also very diffuse and treated with dignity and decency. Check for example this sentence: "To be happily married, no, very happily married to someone who is the center of my life"
Finally, the book gives some hint on the way Harold Pinter worked and therefore providers an illustration of the act of creation:
- He would wrote when he had a sudden inspiration, an image. That could happen at any time and in any circumstances; he would leave everything to write, sometimes frenetically.
- He would make many revisions afterward
- His characters took a life of his own
- He was very focus, serious, diligent and hard working. He would give the same care to a movie script than a speech or a new play. He would not waste his time.
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on 16 January 2013
I've always been interested in the plays of Harold Pinter so was hoping to get more insight into his character through
reading this. Very much a 'diary' style of writing but I didn'ty find it very illuminating . Having said that, I hadn't realised
that he had written so much poetry, some of which I found very moving.
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on 3 September 2010
The book was written in a very superficial way with no details given. Lots of the early book was just diary entries about who she had dinner with but no depth to anything. Later the book loses its chronology and jumps about all over the place. I read the whole book for the Book Group I am in but it will end up going to a Charity Shop!
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