My Father’s Fortune
I hadn’t read anything by Michael Frayn until I read this memoir, though a few years ago I did go to see his play, NOISES OFF, which was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in the theatre. Judging by MY FATHER’S FORTUNE, I’ve been missing something. Although it does encompass the author’s childhood, it is essentially the story of Frayn’s father as far as Frayn could reconstruct it from his own memory, the memories of his relatives and the historical record. It reminded me of the Pagnol fims, LA GLORIE DE MON PERE and LE CHATEAU DE MA MERE in its loving depiction of the author’s father, though it is more astringent than either of them. But like them, the memories are framed by the devastating blow of the loss of a mother. Frayn was twelve, his sister eight when their mother collapsed and died from a totally unsuspected heart defect. His account of this doesn’t make easy reading. They did not go to the funeral and Frayn says that as far as he can remember ‘she’s never mentioned in our house again’. I can well believe this. Attitudes towards childhood bereavement had not changed nearly twenty years later when my father died suddenly. It was simply thought to be the best way. Parents are generally much more open with their chldren now and it’s a good thing. So, yes, MY FATHER’S FORTUNE is sad, painful at time, but very perceptive. Frayn captures so well our own shifting perspectives on our parents as we too grow older, even perhaps overtaking them. It also had me laughing out loud. Highly recommended.