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‘It’s the other human beings in our lives who make us who we are’: Review of Among Others: Friendships and Encounters

book cover of Among Others: Friendships and Encounters by Michael Frayn
Courtesy of Faber

Michael Frayn, esteemed playwright and novelist, reflects on a lifetime’s worth of friendships in Among Others: Friendships and Encounters. Releasing this book at an impressive 90 years old, Frayn bares his heart as he shares something sacred: a life lived through the people around him. Frayn says it is the people around you that shape you, and by recalling the lives of those he has loved, lost, and found, we learn more about Michael Frayn than we could through a biography of his own life.

Frayn narrates a lifetime of relationships through his elegant and charming prose, from friendships with famous names such as Bamber Gascoigne and Peter Nichols, to recalling first loves, and finally ending the grand patchwork of a life well lived by contemplating on his own body. I was reminded that while it is those around you that make you, their presence is not guaranteed. People can enter and exit your life at any moment and no one has an obligation to stay by your side through your best and worst. But, it is yourself and your body that is a constant force, and for this perseverance, it should be celebrated. 

It is unsurprising that after a long life of such prosperity, one would undoubtedly have regrets. As I read more and more of Frayn’s ventures, the impression of regret over roads not travelled is evident. Regrets over handling relationships, as he reminisces on his first love and the cause of the breakdown of their relationship – she did not enter his ‘intellectual world’ and so he broke it off. Frayn’s account is shrouded in nostalgia; he can hardly recall the downs of their relationship, and remembers only an idyllic love affair of love letters and passionate visits. 

Frayn writes about his companions and peers with such care, that it reminded me on multiple occasions as I read the memoir to appreciate the presence of those around me —- fleeting and long-lasting —- as everyone I meet has shaped me into who I am and continues to shape me into who I will become. Not only this, but I am also responsible for other people’s shaping as they are responsible for mine. Is this not what ultimately defines human nature – responsibility over each other’s growth?

Among Others is a perfect read for those craving introspection and self-awareness, as Frayn, while writing about others, is so unbelievably conscious of himself and his flaws, and his place in the lives of others. It is a comforting read that reminds us of the importance of human connection, especially in such politically tense and trying times. I sought comfort in Frayn’s words as I realised that humans, as social creatures, crave interaction with others – in fact we thrive upon it. The memoir undoubtedly gave me some insight into the meaning of my presence in the lives of those around me, as I wonder who will stand out as the defining characters of my life when I reflect on a hopefully full life in the future, as Michael Frayn is doing now in his present. 

Among Others: Friendships and Encounters by Michael Frayn, published by Faber, is available now.


Edited by Lara Mae Simpson, Literature Editor


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