My Father's Fortune

A Life

Michael Frayn


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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. 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. As Peter Kemp wrote in The Sunday Times (London), "Frayn has never written with more searching brilliance than in his quest for his past."

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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. No one round our way locks their front doors in 1969. But then no one still wears homburg hats. I'm looking at the last homburg in southeast London,

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Michael Frayn on his book My Father's Fortune

Hear author and Tony Award-winning playwright Michael Frayn talk about his family memoir My Father's Fortune, which tells the story of his father, Tom Frayn, an asbestos salesman with a winning smile and a racetrack vocabulary, who lived undaunted through hardship and tragedy.

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Praise for My Father's Fortune

“Compelling… Beautiful writing… With a dramatist’s sure touch, Frayn introduces a ticking hand grenade on page 107 that may have you saying to yourself: ‘Oh. My. God.’”
The New York Times Book Review
“What a lovely tribute… Funny when it needs to be, touching when it needs to be, and cast in smooth, beguiling prose.”
Washington Post
“Beautifully rendered and seriously funny.”
Boston Globe
“A beautifully written portrait of a vanished way of life and a fondly humorous, very affecting work of homage and love.”
“A wry, unsentimental, but deeply felt family history… The narrative turns wistful as it surveys the gulf—of temperament, circumstance, and class—that opens between father and son as the author pursues an academic and literary life.”
The New Yorker
“Endearing… Part of the fortune of the book’s title is the gift of storytelling. It is because of this inheritance that we have Frayn’s brilliant body of work—which now, thankfully, includes this accomplished memoir.”
Time Out New York
“Engrossing… This finely detailed remembrance displays subtle wit and powers of perception that magnify every nook and cranny of ordinary life into something extraordinary.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Exquisitely written… Frayn’s thoughtful, obsessive, darkly funny exegesis of his father’s life is a heroic recreation of a vanished world.”
Maclean’s (Canada)
“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.”
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.”
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 past.”
The Sunday Times (UK)
“Frayn at his very best.”
The Observer (UK)
“Often funny, sometimes painful, but always exquisitely well written, My Father’s Fortune reveals the extraordinariness that can lurk in even the most ordinary of lives.”
The Sunday Telegraph (UK)
“Entrancing... Forever alert to the inner processes of art and mind, Frayn from time to time nips backstage to show how the memoir machinery works. Yet this keen self-awareness never compromises the deep poignancy—and the rich comedy—of the story he has to tell. As always, that’s part of the trick of it for Frayn.”
The Independent (UK)

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Michael Frayn

Michael Frayn is the author of ten novels, including the best-selling Headlong, which was a New York Times Editors' 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.

Michael Frayn

Eamonn McCabe
Michael Frayn


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Available Formats and Book Details

My Father's Fortune
A Life
Michael Frayn

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
January 2012
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250002341
ISBN10: 1250002346
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages, Includes 17 black-and-white photographs

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
Metropolitan Books
February 2011
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429918732
ISBN10: 142991873X
288 pages

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