A Pocket of Happiness by Richard E Grant
British actor, national treasure, and star of all time cult film, Withnail and I, Richard E. Grant is certainly adept at delivering lines with a sense of comic timing, however he recently has ventured into unchartered territory with his new book, A Pocketful of Happiness. Grant takes his usual witty, eccentric delivery but turns inwards to reflect on one of the most difficult occurrences in his life; the death of his beloved late wife Joan, after 35 years of marriage, in 2021, to lung cancer.
Based on his late wife’s desire that Grant ‘find a pocketful of happiness’ in every day after she died, Grant compiled this memoir, which is framed with diary entries dating back to his rise to stardom with Withnail in 1987, starry trappings, the fun side of fame interspersed with an intimate, heartfelt story of love, life and loss.
Grant doesn’t shy away from the rollercoaster experience of grief in all its pain and intricacy: from the shock of the diagnosis, ‘Joan will fade. From us. From me. From her former self,’ he worries, to dealing with the inevitably of death that comes with terminal illness, ‘a living grief,’ and the aftermath; how bereavement arrives unexpectedly, imploding life as you know it, ‘sucker-punched by a tidal wave of grief,’ he explains.
Whilst the anecdotes from the show business life they both lived (Washington was an actor dialect coach) sprinkle the memoir with enthusiasm for life and uplifting humour, the universal notion of grief whatever your circumstance, race, identity underpins the book.
The reader is Grant’s companion as he later, after her death, has to learn to sit with his ‘loss of his meaning, his compass’ and take up Washington’s challenge to find some form of happiness in even the most banal, each day.
For anyone that has experienced some form of grief or loss in life, this memoir is fresh and relatable and in Grant’s signature energetic style, encourages all of us to look for light through the darkness of life’s path. As Grant surmises: “Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us.”