This memoir by Antonia Fraser has a specific theme and one that works well for both form and content. It relates her development as an historian but shows how her early life and her education influenced her. Having parents who were impressive in their own fields provided an impetus for her to plough her own furrow, yet her mother was a renowned historian herself and her father was a politician and academic. One of her brothers also wrote history books.
There is no doubt that she was well-connected; her first job working with George Wiedenfield of the publishing house helped her as she became a writer but this book shows that it is the passion, commitment and determination that get books written. I was reminded of the autobiography of Sir Richard Attenborough when he talked about the years of hard work pursuing his dream of making a film about Gandhi. For Antonia Fraser, the passion was Mary, Queen of Scots. She realised her dream and wrote a best seller and a well-regarded history book. Her work includes fiction but it is her historical work that built her reputation.
This book does not give equal attention to her brothers and sisters but her parents feature largely, mostly because they were powerful influences on her. Oxford features too, not just as a University but as her home city. In many ways it is fitting that this city was her home since it is a city steeped in history.