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50-Jan-Feb-2011
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My Life with Harold Pinter

A-Must You GoCelebrated British historian Antonia Fraser is best known for her bestselling biographies --including Mary Queen of Scots (1969), The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1999), and Marie Antoinette (2001)--and her mystery novels featuring detective Jemima Shore. She wrote this memoir of her husband, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, in only 26 days following his death in 2008.

The Topic: As she was leaving an opening-night party in January 1975, Antonia Fraser stopped to congratulate the playwright, Harold Pinter, recalling that "he looked at me with those amazing, extremely bright black eyes. ‘Must you go?' he said." She stayed, and the two famous writers--both in their 40s and long married to others--spent the next several hours talking, embarking on a passionate love affair and, in 1980, marriage. In this loving tribute to her husband of 28 years, Fraser reveals "the rough with the smooth," describing their opulent life together as well as Pinter's bouts of depression, controversial politics, and spontaneous, near-paroxysmal creative genius. Diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2001, the once-vigorous, cricket-playing Pinter passed away with Fraser at his side on Christmas Eve 2008.
Nan A. Talese. 336 pages. $28.95. ISBN: 9780385532501

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"From diary entries she kept that chronicled the glittering couple's A-list life, Fraser, now 78 and the grandmother of 16, simultaneously creates a tender portrait of an exciting marriage, and a deliciously detailed account of living in the thick of creativity and fame." Lisa Schwarzbaum

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Even though the lovebirds were worldly people in their early 40s, the early segments of Must You Go? are swoony, occasionally even eye-rolling swoony. But the flame never burns out for these two, consistent romantics until the end of his life." Jim Higgins

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"In creating such a finely wrought picture of a man who was both one of the great playwrights of the 20th century and the love of her life, she deploys her own talents in the way a superb lighting designer does in the theater. The figure onstage here stands clearly defined in a dynamic play of light and shadow." Steven Winn

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"That's part of the loving service Fraser performed for her husband; she not only provided him with an interesting, culturally layered, extremely enjoyable life, but she recorded it, so that this book exists as a homage, not just to their love but to their time and work together. ... With the publication of this enchanting memoir, she has more than discharged her loving obligation to this distinguished man." Carolyn See

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The prose is not overly winsome. ‘My Diary: it's not about great writing,' she admits.' ... But there's hardly a dull page. At its most prosaic Must You Go? reads like a lightly annotated social calendar, albeit one of the most enviable and kaleidoscopic of the 20th century." Dwight Garner

Critical Summary

This "bold, intimate, madly entertaining memoir" (Entertainment Weekly) is not so much a biography as a collection of radiant fragments detailing a life devoted to--and lived as--art. "There are very few grilled-cheese sandwiches eaten thoughtlessly over the sink in this account," muses the Washington Post, but there are plenty of family holidays, charity events, cricket matches, and dinners with Samuel Beckett, V. S. Naipaul, and Salman Rushdie--too many, perhaps, for the New York Times. Though Pinter comes to life in these pages, readers in search of an in-depth analysis of the playwright and his work won't find it here. Instead they'll be treated to a moving love story and "a deep-focus portrait of an artist that only [his wife] could have written" (San Francisco Chronicle).