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My Father's Fortune Paperback – Oct 25 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber And Faber Ltd. (Oct. 25 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057127059X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571270590
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 222 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #451,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“After the brilliant plays—both comic and cerebral—and the subtle novels, one of our best contemporary writers has made the family memoir his own. Not a line, still less a thought, is stale or predictable.”—Anne Chisholm, "The Daily Telegraph "(UK) “Genuinely delving, yet decently guarded, "My Father’s Fortune" is often very funny and soaked in a wistful sort of melancholy that deepens into a compelling sadness. Frayn has written books that make a bigger bang, but none that is so touching.”—Andrew Motion, "The Guardian "(UK) “Ranging from comic star turns to passages of piercingly lucid melancholy, "My Father’s Fortune" adroitly modulates between humor and tragedy, ruefulness and celebration, intellectual keenness and elegiac depths of feeling. 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 p

About the Author

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and began his career as a journalist on the Guardian and the Observer. His novels include Towards the End of the Morning, The Trick of It and A Landing on the Sun. Headlong (1999) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and Spies (2002) won the Whitbread Best Novel Award. His most recent novel, Skios, was longlisted for the Booker Prize. His fifteen plays range from Noises Off to Copenhagen and, most recently, Afterlife. He is married to the writer Claire Tomalin.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on March 6 2011
Format: Hardcover
In his new memoir, playwright and author Michael Frayn writes of his early years - he was born in 1933 - and growing up in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. At the center of his story was his father, Thomas Frayn. Tom Frayn was an "ordinary" man - school-leaver at age 14 who worked his way into the British middle class by selling asbestos products. Along the way, he acquired a wife and a son and a daughter. He provided for his family and moved up a step in social class, leaving the lower-class of his family-of-birth. Along the way, he provided guidance and love and support for his children.

How often are "ordinary" men featured in literature, both fiction and non-fiction? Not often; the emphasis is usually placed on the "extraordinary" among us. Those who preform great deeds in battle, or in the market place, or in the classroom. But the men we see on the streets, going to and from work, are often the true "heroes". They're the ones who form a family group and help support it. They're the unsung ones who nurture the next generation. They may not be overt in their declarations of love but they declare their caring in the things they do.

Tom Frayn lost his wife to a heart attack soon after the end of WW2. Having survived the war - including an almost direct hit by a "doodlebug" - Vi Frayn died suddenly in November, 1945. Tom took over the raising of the two children, helped by his mother-in-law, and then by his second wife, who turned out to be manic-depressive. Throughout it all, Tom Frayn went to work in his much-loved car, selling asbestos to support his family. Added into his responsibilities was the fact that Tom Frayn had inherited a familial deafness, which worsened as he grew older.

This is not a story of the "quiet desperation" of an ordinary man.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
a wonderful book March 8 2011
By Debra Monroe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First things first: the *New York Times Book Review* review by Christopher Buckley says that the first 70 pages of this book are unendurably boring, and then it gets better. No. The first 70 pages are charming, winsome, engrossing, and so is the rest of the book. It's great from the start, so much humor, humility, and common sense mixed with erudition. It's a story about moving from real poverty into the middle class, and the narrator learns as much from his father, an asbestos salesman, as he learns at Cambridge. It's also a close-up look at WWII from a child's-eye view (literally: from various bomb shelters, some homemade, some government-issued). Unlike American memoirs, which specialize in salacious revelation, it's full of hardship but nothing lurid, no skeletons in this closet. Love is always present, gratitude too, and a sense of proportion and good humor, no matter how hard life gets. It's a book that reminds you most lives are difficult and beautiful at the same time.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
An ordinary man... March 6 2011
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his new memoir, British playwright and author Michael Frayn writes of his early years - he was born in 1933 - and growing up in the 1930's, 40's, and 50's. At the center of his story was his father, Thomas Frayn. Tom Frayn was an "ordinary" man - school-leaver at age 14 who worked his way into the British middle class by selling asbestos products. Along the way, he acquired a wife and a son and a daughter. He provided for his family and moved up a step in social class, leaving the lower-class of his family-of-birth. And he provided guidance and love and support for his children.

How often are "ordinary" men featured in literature, either fiction and non-fiction? Not often; the emphasis is usually placed on the "extraordinary" among us. Those who perform great deeds in battle, in the market place, on the playing fields, or in the classroom. But the men we see on the streets, going to and from work, are often the true "heroes". They're the ones who form a family group and help support it. They're the unsung ones who nurture the next generation. They may not be overt in their declarations of love but they declare their caring in the things they do.

Tom Frayn lost his wife to a heart attack soon after the end of WW2. Having survived the war - including an almost direct hit by a "doodlebug" - Vi Frayn died suddenly in November, 1945. Tom took over the raising of the two children, helped by his mother-in-law, and then by his second wife, who turned out to be manic-depressive. Throughout it all, Tom Frayn went to work in his much-loved car, selling asbestos to support his family. Added into his responsibilities was the fact that Tom Frayn had inherited a familial deafness, which worsened as he grew older.

This is not a story of the "quiet desperation" of an ordinary man. Nowhere in Michael Frayn's excellent writing did I get the feeling that Tom Frayn ever felt sorry for himself and his circumstances. No, he just accepted and shouldered on, before his death from cancer at the age of 69.

Michael Frayn has written a lovely, sentimental but not maudlin, picture of Tom Frayn, that extraordinary, "ordinary" man.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A TENDER,POIGNANT, SOMETIMES HUMOROUS MEMOIR March 20 2011
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Acclaimed dramatist/novelist Michael Frayn has spent a virtual lifetime creating stories, revealing the lives of characters that fascinate, enlighten, and entertain us. Now, for the first time with MY FATHER'S FORTUNE he reveals one more life - his own.

From the man acknowledged as one of the greatest living dramatists and novelists, winner of three Tony awards, and the author of nine novels one would expect a remarkable memoir. Nonetheless, this reader remains astonished and moved by the depth of emotion displayed by Frayn in this tender, touching, sometimes humorous reminiscence.

Frayn's powers of recall are amazing as he paints vivid word pirctures of his childhood. We often find the author deeply affected by what he writes, almost unable to put the words on paper, yet it is all here, in this incredibly arresting memoir. We see his father, Tom, an ordinary yet extraordinary man, born into a poor family, one of four children all of whom suffer from hereditary deafness. He became a traveling salesman, married his childhood sweetheart, Violet. The couple eventually had two children and settled in Surrey. While none of this may seem remarkable it becomes so in Frayn's recollections.

He speaks of a letter his father wrote shortly before he died, thanking his son for his visits to the hospital. Tom wrote that often those visits "seemed the mainstay of my existence." Although father and son loved one another it was the first time, as Frayn writes, that his father had "opened his heart, and spoken as we all should like to speak."

When Tom died he left behind only three watches and two ink-and-wash prints. Yet his legacy is so much greater than that as is seen in his son who continually reveals our shared humanity with true understanding and perception.
MY FATHER'S FORTUNE is a gift to be savored and shared with those we love.

- Gail Cooke
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A son's compassionate remembrance of his father March 25 2011
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Like Michael Frayn's father, most of us "move lightly over the earth," leaving traces of our brief presence only in the hearts and minds of our loved ones who remain behind. The difference in Tommy Frayn's case is that his son is a prize-winning novelist and dramatist, and thus able to endow his father's outwardly ordinary life with elements of humor, pathos and even courage. Frayn's memoir is a tender, witty look through one man's story at working class life in 20th-century England.

Born in 1901 into a family that suffered from congenital deafness (a condition that would surface in his own life as an adult), Thomas Allen Frayn spent much of his childhood in two rooms with his parents and four siblings. By age 14, Tommy had left school to take a job as an office boy, launching him into the world of work that would define his life. He was a born salesman, a gregarious, natural storyteller, even as his deafness impeded his dealings with customers and he responded by making himself "more of a character."

But apart from his work, the other pole of Tommy Frayn's existence --- a source of pleasure and pain --- was family. Shortly after marrying Violet Lawson in 1931 (Michael was born in 1933; his sister, Jill, three-and-a-half years later), her family's economic fortunes crashed and her mother moved into the household where she remained for 18 years. Tommy was an attentive husband and father until a blindingly unexpected family tragedy in 1945 permanently altered the course of his life's final quarter-century.

Michael Frayn lovingly reveals the quirks of his father's personality to create a fully realized character. Tommy struggled to overcome his disappointment that his son would never become a cricket star and was baffled by Michael's affinity for romantic poetry and brief flirtation with Communism. The elder Frayn's parsimony was epic, and Michael captures it with characteristic wit. "Some people, brought up as my father was in straitened circumstances, run wild when they get a little money and spend, spend, spend," he notes. "This is a pitfall that my father shows no signs of falling into." Even the family's small collection of books --- a telephone directory, Shakespeare's complete works and two volumes of photographs of Switzerland --- are "presumably surplus stock" or presents for customers of his father's company, a supplier of asbestos. "A lot of our possessions have come to us in a somewhat similar way," Frayn confesses.

Much of the family saga told here played out against the perils and privation of the Second World War, and Frayn delivers a seriocomic account of the period all referred to as "the Duration." Of a backyard air-raid shelter that turned into a stagnant pond, he writes that "the chances of dying in the shelter, either of exposure, drowning, or some waterborne disease such as cholera or bilharzia, are visibly much higher than of dying through enemy action in the house." And yet he recognizes the razor-thin line that separated life and sudden death in the story of the "doodlebug," a deadly species of drone that buzzed past the Frayn home one evening and slammed into a nearby house, killing all its inhabitants.

By the early 1950s, Michael had endured two years of service as a Russian interpreter in the British army and then three years at Cambridge (topics it appears he's reserving for another memoir). The subject of payment for his higher education was one of some humorous contention between father and son. As he embarks on a career in journalism, there's a recognition that though his life has turned in a direction almost incomprehensible to his father, something more than a grudging sense of pride forms in the older man.

For all their many moments of conflict and misunderstanding, Michael Frayn proves himself a compassionate judge of his father's quirky legacy, probably the most any parent can ask of a child. "To me personally he left a fortune --- an intangible and unrecorded legacy more precious than money or anything he might ever have written down," he writes. "The humor he used to deal with his customers and circumvent his deafness, his indifference to all systems of belief, the smile on his face that I sometimes find so disconcertingly on mine." It's not hard to imagine Tommy Frayn reading those words with that very same smile.

--- Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg
Michael Frayn: My Father's Fortune June 14 2014
By Marion Bridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Michael Frayn never fails to amaze with his varied subjects in his page turning novels. This memoir fascinates with a boyhood that showed no sign of the successful author to come, labelled a dreamer and not particularly bright. The strange family living in poor crowded circumstances and all deaf lead us through his childhood to the inching upwards of his father's progress, with humour and some pathos..Read it to discover why it is called his father's fortune. Be delighted by the characters who are sometimes too bizarre to seem real. Reads like a novel.


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