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Must You Go?: My Life with Harold Pinter Hardcover – Deckle Edge, November 2, 2010
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Fraser is a highly regarded British biographer, and the late Harold Pinter, her husband, was a Nobel-winning British playwright. So, the circle they generally traveled in was made up of not only fellow writers but also, because of their individual and combined celebrity, fellow celebrities. Fraser’s latest book is both joyous and sad. The former because she shares diary entries concerning her relationship with Pinter (they lived together from August 1975 until Christmas 2008), and it was obviously a stimulating love-match. And sad because the book ends when it does because of Pinter’s death from cancer; his struggle with the disease had been years-long. As expected, given their fame and the fame of their associates, lots of name-dropping goes on here. This is not, of course, the story of two starving artists trying to scratch together a living in some cold-water flat. But privileged as they were, they nevertheless experienced the normal highs and lows together, and the result is a poignant read. Serious readers will generate demand for this title, and they will respond with gratitude to Fraser’s intimacy. --Brad Hooper
“Glowing. . . . There’s hardly a dull page.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Entertaining and ultimately touching in its determination to recapture lost time, to portray a younger, more carefree self and to bring back a lost loved one, if only on the page."
—Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review
"A stirring celebration of what Fraser, reflecting near the end of Pinter's life, observed as a union 'to the infinite degree happy beyond all possible expectations.'"
—The New Yorker
"Bold, intimate, madly entertaining. . . . Fraser simultaneously creates a tender portrait of an exciting marriage, and a deliciously detailed account of living in the thick of creativity and fame. A"
"An engrossing, anecdote-rich feat for theater lovers whose tastes extend beyond the glitter of Broadway. . . . The book ultimately sheds humanizing new light on a writer with a public reputation for his stern sense of ethics and the clammy, unsettling spell cast by his plays."
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
"It takes a daring biographer to turn her sharp eye on her own life as Antonia Fraser does so movingly and beautifully in her memoir Must You Go? My Life with Harold Pinter. It's a compelling diary of a passionate love affair, marriage, and 40-year conversation of two soul mates in the milieu of London's chattering classes."
—Tina Brown, The Daily Beast
"Written with a very English, very literate brand of grace and restraint, Fraser's account of their life together (culled from her diaries) is fond and touching. But it's also a crisp, clear-eyed portrait of a shared life of creative work, political activism, wide-ranging travels, family — not always smooth going, sometimes rocky and controversial, but remarkable and fascinating nonetheless. In short, theirs was a fine romance, and Fraser shares that with us."
—The Seattle Times
“Fraser has used more than three decades’ worth of pithy, clever and frequent diary entries as the backbone of this tremendously engaging account. . . . The book works beautifully – as both a rare love story and a sharp portrait of life in the upper echelons of British literary society.”
“A lovely, intimate portrayal of a marriage . . . A wonderful testament to romance, love, shared humor, and true partnership."
—Library Journal, starred review
"A moving compilation of diary entries written during the course of an artistically fruitful three-decade partnership . . . A devoted, respectful tribute."
“Must You Go? is a love story (with a dash of scandal for spice), but it succeeds on many other levels as well. It is a window into British high society, a glimpse of the inspiration behind some of Pinter’s finest achievements and a kaleidoscope of historical and personal events. Most significantly, it is a testament to the 'private happiness' possible in a supportive marriage between two dynamic and ambitious people.”
Praise from the UK:
“This book — full of funny and tender things — satisfies on more than one level. It is an intimate account of the life and habits of a major artist; it is a pencil sketch of British high society in the second half of the 20th century; and it is, more than either of these things, and much more unusually, a wonderfully full description of the deep pleasures and comforts of married love.”
“Must You Go? is extraordinary by any standards. Based on the diaries she kept during her 33-year relationship with the dramatist, it is simultaneously a love story, an intimate portrait of a great writer and an exercise in self-revelation.”
“Neither autobiography nor biography but a love story, romantic, poignant and very funny, illuminating her husband's character and creativity.”
“[Writing] with exemplary clarity and courage . . . Fraser keeps her gaze steady and her heart open.”
“Unremittingly delicious: strange, rarefied, frequently hilarious.”
“[Must You Go? is] told from a privileged backstage perspective, and observed with a sharp eye for social and behavioural detail . . . This book works, just as it appears their lives worked, as the most touching and enduring of love stories . . . The ending, brutal and unsentimentally presented yet filled with a Tolstoyan directness of feeling, is almost unbearably moving. The whole of this lovely book fills you with a gratitude that happenstance can, once in a while, not screw up and find the right girl for the right boy.”
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Antonia is very relaxed, happy, positive individual. She makes the ordinary things in life sound astonishing. The end is sad but not devastatingly so. I loved it when Harold told Antonia, "I will miss you when I am dead." So profound. I cried all the way thru the serious parts of Harold's illnesses. Each one whispered a portion of their final good bye which was near. Yet, both Harold and Antonia noticed and appreciated every moment of joy they experienced. I learned from this novel. that it does not matter how much time two people who are truly in love spend together because it will be a life time. When Harold died, he continued to live in Antonia's heart. A few minutes after he died she kissed him several times, and said "must you go," she answered her own question yes you must. I will never forget this novel. I will not be the same after reading it.
However, I am quite familiar with Harold Pinter and have been my entire adult life. His plays, the films from his books. Heady stuff back in the 60s when I was in my 20's. Black and white films, taboo subjects, the beginning of the envelope push. John Osborne was another author whose works shocked and inspired me. Perhaps they are why I ended up living in London.
Her book. I do remember the gasps from the newspaper journalists when word leaked out she and Mr. Pinter were a couple. She a Catholic girl (married) with six children! He a nice Jewish boy married to a famous actress. The ultimate forbidden fruit. A Jewish boyfriend for the Catholic girl and even worse, the blond, aristocratic shiksa to cause heartburn for the Jewish parents. Been there. Done that.
It is my personal belief that she felt she owed this book to the millions of Harold Pinter fans around the world. Some people comment that this book consists of diary entries and a whole lotta name droppin'! Well, England is a tiny island. The actors, writers and playwrights all know each other very well. Who was she supposed to write about? The salesgirl at her local Boot's Chemist shop?
I agree with everyone who has commented here that I would have enjoyed more detail about their lives beyond breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner dates with famous friends. Trips to Paris, Italy, NY, etc. It was fascinating to learn that the nephew of billionaire financier George Soros married into the family. That I did not know.
The chapters on his fight with cancer (which he ultimately lost) are difficult to read. There is no doubt they loved each other from the day they met until the moment he died. No one could make a film of this relationship as there are no actors/actresses who could play their parts. Unique. One-of-a-kind. We shall not see their like again. Their love shines through each page and it is a joy to read about it. Enduring and touching.
The last page is heartbreaking and left me in a puddle of tears. I felt as if I was standing next to her as the love of her life took his last breath and passed into immortality. It was a dagger through the heart. That was where the book ended. Perfect. The portrait was complete. One more brush stroke would have ruined it. Surely her life since has been full of children, grandchildren and friends. She writes, travels, enjoys life. It will never be the same. Even now, years later, she must see or hear something fun and say to herself, "I must share this with Harold." Love like they had never ends. I am sure she feels his spirit all around her. Even though the book does not tell the whole story of their lives together, I am so thankful she shared this little bit with us who loved her husband and his work.
There are some wonderful anecdotes (how could there *not* be?) concerning Pinter, and Fraser's portrayal of him as a kind, respectful partner over the decades is appealing, but those searching for the real Pinter, whoever that may be, will be rightly forced to return to his work. Perhaps it's fitting that a playwright like Pinter, whose work is drenched in the mystery of relationships, should himself remain a mystery. Still, I enjoyed the book, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped to.