Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter by Antonia Fraser - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

‘You Are Quite Right, Darling. Now SHUT UP’

Must You Go? My Life With Harold Pinter

By

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 328pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

This book is a love story and a very moving one. ‘Must you go?’ were the first words Harold Pinter said to Antonia Fraser as she made to leave a dinner after the first night of a revival of The Birthday Party in 1975. ‘I thought of home, my lift, taking the children to school the next morning, the exhausting past night in the sleeper from Scotland, my projected biography of Charles II… “No, it’s not absolutely essential,” I said.’ In the end it was Pinter who took her home. ‘He stayed until 6 o’clock in the morning with extraordinary recklessness, but of course the real recklessness was mine.’

They were both approaching middle age and both were married, Pinter to the actress Vivien Merchant – who had starred in his early plays – and Lady Antonia to Hugh Fraser, a Conservative MP and the brother of Lord Lovat. He was a Jew from the East End of London. She was a Roman Catholic, mother of six children, and the daughter of the Earl of Longford. He was already one of the most famous of living playwrights; she had seen success with her biography of Mary Queen

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