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2015 · issuE 4

7

My History: A Memoir

of Growing Up

Lady Antonia Fraser

(OD 1944)

W&N, 2015

Antonia Fraser’s memoir describes growing

up in the 1930s and 1940s but its real concern

is with her growing love of History. The

fascination began as a child - and developed

into an enduring passion; as she writes, ‘for

me, the study of History has always been an

essential part of the enjoyment of life’.

Born Antonia Pakenham, the eldest of the

eight children of the future Lord and Lady

Longford, her childhood was spent in Oxford,

where her father was a don at Christ Church.

Evacuation at the beginning of the war to a

romantic Elizabethan manor house nearby

was an inspiration for historical imaginings.

There were adventures in Anglo-Ireland at

Dunsany Castle and Pakenham Hall, each

offering her treasured links to the past which

became private obsessions.

North Oxford wartime life included four

years as one of the few girls then admitted to

the Dragon School for boys, followed by time

at a convent school after her family’s

conversion to Catholicism. Her father joined

the Labour Government in 1945 as a Minister,

which provided an odd background for

exploits such as working in a Bond Street hat

shop and a season as a self- made debutante.

A job in publishing, by a fortunate coincidence,

followed Oxford University and the book

ends with the dramatic leap forward with the

publishing of Mary Queen of Scots which

became a worldwide bestseller to general

amazement (including the author’s).

This magical memoir, told with inimitable

humour and style, will take many readers

back to their own discovery of History. It is an

unforgettable account of one person’s journey

towards becoming a writer - and a historian.

What You Want

Constantine Phipps

(OD 1967)

Quercus, 2014

Patrick is still in love with his

estranged wife. Returning

with their son after a trip to

an amusement park, he begs,

one last time, to reconcile

with her. When she refuses,

he is driven to thoughtless

desperation: a bottle of

sleeping pills, a bottle of

whisky. And in his dying

dream, he revisits that theme

park of childish desire.

There he finds the

landscape - still garish and

indulgent - has evolved.

The attractions are religion,

money and sex. The

characters - costumed and

acted - are transformed

into Jefferson, Xunzi,

Aristotle. And their purpose

is to instruct Patrick in

the pursuit of happiness

throughout human history.

But Patrick can only

answer with his own story.

He remembers falling in

love with Louise. Recalls

the enlightenment of their

youth and the banality of

their family life. He tells of

their marriage, how it came

under strain after the birth of

his son; how he cheated; the

unravelling of all his joy. Yet

still his love persists.

Beginning with

the first line of Dante’s

Divine Comedy and

taking Disneyworld, the

Declaration of Independence

and the canon of philosophy

in its stride,

What You

Want

is a literary feat: a

novel written entirely in

verse, depicting life in all its

ordinariness. It gives voice

to a new Everyman and

brings forth an unparalleled

modern epic.

India

A Short History

Andrew Robinson

(OD 1960)

Thames and Hudson, 2014

In India: A Short History

Andrew Robinson offers an

incisive distillation of India’s

uniquely diverse history,

from the advanced cities

of the early Indus Valley to

India’s current incarnation

as the world’s largest

democracy

To pilgrims from ancient

China, India was the

birthplace of the Buddha.

To Alexander the Great, it

was a land of philosophers

and armies mounted on

elephants. To ancient Rome,

it was a source of luxuries.

At the height of the Mughal

empire in 1700, India

boasted nearly 25 per cent

of the world economy, but

then, under British rule, its

economy declined.

Colonial India

was known for its

extremes of wealth and

poverty, epitomized

by the Taj Mahal and

famines, maharajas and

untouchables, and for its

spirituality: many-armed

Hindu gods, Sufi saints

and Buddhist philosophy,

Mahatma Gandhi and

Rabindranath Tagore.

The book places as much

emphasis on individuals,

ideas and cultures as on the

rise and fall of kingdoms,

political parties and

economies. Anyone curious

about a great civilization,

and its future, will find this

an ideal introduction, at

times controversial, written

by an author who has been

intimately engaged with

the subcontinent for almost

four decades.

BOOK sHElF

Please let us know if you have had a book

published or know of any other recent OD

publications.

If you would like your book to be included

in the next issue of The OD, please send a

signed copy to the OD Office. The book will

be added to the OD Library bookshelves in

the Quiet Room in School House.

Out of Print:

Newspapers,

Journalism and the

Business of News in

the Digital Age

Professor George Brock

(OD 1969)

Kogan Page, 2013

News and journalism are

in the midst of upheaval.

How does news publishing

change when a newspaper

sells as few as 300,000

copies but its website

attracts 31 million visitors?

These shifts are forcing

assumptions and practices

to be rethought from first

principles. The internet

is not simply allowing

faster, wider distribution of

material: digital technology

is demanding transformative

change. Journalism needs

to be rethought on a global

scale and remade to meet the

demands of new conditions.

Out of Print

examines the

past, present and future for

a fragile industry battling

a ‘perfect storm’ of falling

circulations, reduced

advertising revenue, rising

print costs and the impact of

‘citizen journalists’ and free

news aggregators. Author

George Brock argues that

journalism can flourish in a

new communications age, and

explains how current theory

and practice have to change

to fully exploit developing

opportunities. Providing

a unique examination of

every key issue, from the

phone-hacking scandal

and Leveson Inquiry to the

impact of social media on

news and expectations,

Out

of Print

presents an incisive,

authoritative analysis of

the role and influence of

journalism in the digital age.