Whether he is deliriously funny or philosophically profound, as a novelist and a playwright Michael Frayn has concerned himself with the ordinary life lived by erring humans, which is always more extraordinary than people think. In My Father's Fortune, Frayn reveals the original exemplar of the extraordinary-ordinary life: his father, Tom Frayn.
A clever lad, a roofing 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. And undaunted he stayed, through German rockets, feckless in-laws, and his own increasing deafness; through the setback of a son as bafflingly slow-witted as the father was quick on his feet; through the shockingly sudden tragedy that darkened his life.
Tom Frayn left his son little more than three watches and two ink-and-wash prints. But the true fortune he passed on was the great humor and spirit revealed in this beguiling memoir.
Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the best-selling Headlong, which was a New York Times Editor's Choice selection and a Booker Prize finalist, and Spies, which received the Whitbread Fiction Award. Michael Frayn is also the author of My Father's Fortune: A Life, The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of a Universe, Democracy: A Play, A Landing on the Sun: A Novel, The Copenhagen Papers: An Intrigue and The Trick of It: A Novel. He has also written fifteen plays, among them Noises Off and Copenhagen, which won three Tony Awards in 1999. He lives just south of London.
The handle of my study door softly turns. I look up from my typewriter, startled. The two older children are at school, my wife's out with the baby, the house is empty. I'm working alone on the top floor.
The door opens a few inches. Around the edge of it, with a certain deferential caution, comes a hat. A black homburg.
The year must be 1969, I realize from the internal evidence when I reconstruct the scene in my memory.
Michael Frayn On Writing My Father's Fortune