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My Father's Fortune: A Life

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  171 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Winner of the PEN/Ackerley Prize

Award-winning playwright and novelist Michael Frayn "makes the family memoir his own" (The Daily Telegraph) as he tells the story of his father, Tom Frayn. A clever lad, an asbestos salesman with a winning smile and a racetrack vocabulary, Tom Frayn emerged undaunted from a childhood spent in two rooms with six other people, all of them deaf
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Picador (first published 2010)
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David Cheshire
A lovely book. I expected a "Who Do You Think You Are"-type 'family history from the census' story. But it's actually about recovering lost or half-lost memories about himself and his friends and immediate family as he grew up; all the stuff that's usually lost even as it shapes you. A masterpiece; Proust but better!
Michael Frayn’s memoir is probably the family biography we’d all wish to write, had we the wit and talent. Frayn scavenges information from public records and relatives to fill out the family history he wasn’t around to remember, but this is primarily the story of family life has he experienced during the war years (WWII) to the death of his sister in 2003. Like all of us who grew up with siblings, our memories of our parents and family events are exceedingly partial. Frayn is dismayed to hear h ...more
Debbie Davies
I was captivated by this book from the start. In today's climate, where family is not always so important and often older members of our heritage were farmed off to a home, this book is the anthithesis of this.He makes us realise how we connact,whether educated or less educated,older or younger, higher or upper class. World Wars and family traumas and who we experience them with make us the person we evolve. A wealth of human interest that should get us running towards our telephone and ringing ...more
I know that MF is a greatly respected writer but I found this very dull. Everyone I know, who has read this book, absolutely loved it. For them, he did turn his father’s life into a compelling story. It was obviously a very important book for Frayne to write, paying homage to his father and their life together, managing to say things that he wished he had done earlier BUT… I never really managed to engage with or care enough to finish the book. Apparently it did ‘kick in’ eventually and reward t ...more
I have just finished this book and enjoyed it enormously. Michael Frayn is a favourite author anyway, and this opportunity to hear about his early family life was fascinating, beautifully written and very poignant.
He is a fabulous writer and is never mawkish or sentimental and yet I managed (as is my way!) to cry through large parts of it.

His Father sits between my grandfather and father's generations, so there were lots of fascinating social history.

He is, of course, a very funny man and great
This would have been a much better portrait of his father if Michael Frayn had not spent so much of it musing why he didn’t remember more about various pivotal incidents. And for a memoir about his father’s life, there is a bit too much about his own teenage years. Adolescent self-absorption and angst is just not that interesting! I understand why it was so important for him to write this honest and sympathetic book, and in a way it was quite moving to read, but as someone outside his family, I ...more
Michael Frayn writes beautifully, combining humour with warmth and affection for his father, an apparently ordinary man but a fascinating one. Frayn has researched his family background and produced an account that is alternately very funny and sad, but never sentimental. Being just a little younger than the author I was gripped by his picture of the 40s and 50s and his relationship with his father which had its ups and downs. Highly recommended.
Derek Bridge
It is not a criticism to say that in this beautifully writtten memoir Frayn circles around and around his father, getting ever closer, never actually fully understanding the man. For sure, isn't that how it is with all of us?

But, as you would expect of a writer and thinker of Frayn's stature, there are insights a-plenty both into the way his family has shaped him but also into how family shapes all of us.
Haunting story of Frayn's childhood in a suburb of London before, during and after World War II. He is honest, moving without being sentimental about his very practical father who sold asbestos sheeting for his whole life. After this, read his novel SPIES, clearly taken from this setting. I listened to this book and the reader is excellent.
Michael Frayn creates wonderful portraits of his extended family and their lives in England in the 30's and 40's. I found the stories of how ordinary people perservered during hard times heart-warming and inspiring to those of us living through some hardships now. MY FATHER'S FORTUNE is the story of ordinary doing their best.
I loved this book more than I can really say. Such a beautiful exploration of family and the bonds through generations. I laughed, I cried. I can't wait to read it again. Well worthwhile. It is also, incidentally, a wonderful look at history and social change, as well as a commentary on memory and its faults.
Lisa Van zyl-jones
Interesting read, enjoyed it.
Sarah Harkness
A bit slow to get going - the pre-history, reassembled from family memories, didn't work terribly well for me. But once Frayn reaches the war years, and his own vivid memories of his youth, and his relationship with his family, especially his father, I was gripped and moved. Beautiful writing!

A charming, self-effacing, understated and deeply moving memoir/biography by one of my favorite novelists. Also a fascinating social history of lower middle class life in early-mid 20th century England. Beautifully written, just as you would expect from Michael Frayn.
Just finished this book last night ( May 4). Oustanding, a beautiful, tender memoir of a father, and many other relatives. Inspires you to get writing about your family before the memories fade or your loved ones are no longer around to tell you their stories.
Jenny Brown
What a nice change to read a memoir where the author is not whining or blaming his parents for his rotten life. Without being sentimental, Frayn tells a touching tale that paints a rounded and deeply compassionate portrait of his father.
A sometimes hilarious and always moving account of a famous writer's childhood and adolescence, dominated by the personality of his father, Tom, whose infectious, dazzling smile comes shining through the pages of this beautifully written book.
Tracey  Wilde
It's always interesting to read about other peoples families. This is a lovely book. His affection for his father comes shining through. Very funny in parts and moving in others. Highly recommended.
Teresa Lukey
This is a beautiful story of a man and his father. I had never heard of Michael Frayn and I still really liked his story. Moral of the story-A man's fortune is not always a reference to him money.
Robert Wechsler
A good memoir about Frayn's relationship with his father, and the rest of his family, but although the family was strange, he did nothing special with the memoir form, and nothing in the book shone.
Haley J.
This book is great background for fans of Frayn's writing, but I think it would fall flat with those unfamiliar with his work. In particular, it gives a new depth to "Spies."
This is a memoir of the author's family, mostly set in his youth, but continuing on through the death of his father. Touching and so interesting. I loved this book.
A rare visit to non fiction, My Father's Fortune is a critically acclaimed family memoir. But I found it very boring. In fact I gave up after the third try.
Excellent book! Frayn's evocation of his father during his last illness was hard to read, in part because it was much like my own father's death.
An endearing portrait of Frayn's father, but also about his whole family, living in England after the war. I love Frayn, so I loved this book.
Jul 11, 2011 Whalej is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I liked his book Falling Down, so I thought this might be interesting. I am happy with the book so far.
Lynn Kearney
A very moving account of the life of this fine author's father and what it was like to grow up in his house.
Just excellent. Funny and interesting and so well-written. He's clearly a national treasure.
Miriam Halahmy
Michael Fryan's totally brilliant portrayal of his father's life. A must read if you like memoir.
I'm going to spoil the plot of this book and announce that NOTHING happens. Ever.
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Michael Frayn is an English playwright and novelist. He is best known as the author of the farce Noises Off and the dramas Copenhagen and Democracy. His novels, such as Towards the End of the Morning, Headlong and Spies, have also been critical and commercial successes, making him one of the handful of writers in the English language to succeed in both drama and prose fiction. His works often rais ...more
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