Reviewed by Rama Gaind.
By Richard E. Grant, Gallery Books UK, $49.99.
“Try to find a pocketful of happiness in every single day” is one quote we should all hold close to our hearts.
Richard E. Grant’s memoir is a poignant celebration of life’s unexpected joys. It’s a commanding narrative, told with honesty, and it’s funny.
Grant emigrated from Swaziland to London in 1982, with dreams of making it as an actor, when he unexpectedly met and fell in love with renowned dialect coach Joan Washington. Their relationship and marriage, navigating the highs and lows of Hollywood, parenthood and loss, lasted almost 40 years. When Joan died in 2021, her final challenge to him was to find that “pocketful of happiness.”
Honouring his wife’s edict became his resolution and his mantra. It was Joan’s simple dare that proved to be profoundly powerful.
This honest biography is written in honour of that challenge – Richard has faithfully kept a diary since childhood, and in these entries he shares in raw detail everything he has experienced: both the pain of losing his beloved wife, and the excitement of their life together, from the role that transformed his life overnight in Withnail & I to his thrilling Oscar nomination 30 years later for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
“Whenever I waver towards the canyon of grief, her instruction pings across my cranium and I endeavour to try to find a pocketful of happiness wherever I can … It already feels like a welcome habit, my daily bread and buffer.”
A Pocketful of Happiness is a diary of their final months together as Joan lived out her last months with cancer, interlaced with flashbacks that detail Grant’s 64 years (at the time of writing) of life, both before and after meeting Joan.
“Yet, just the act of writing this down conjures her present again. It feels like an act of resurrection.”