For me, this book was not about the actor, Richard E. Grant. It was not about the movies he’d made, or the awards he’d won. This book was about Richard E. Grant. Husband, father, soulmate to Joan and caregiver. This book was about their love story. Richard and Joan had a 35 year marriage and were soulmates. Through the words on the page, it is very easy to see that they had a wonderful marriage, soulmates, hearts and flowers, hating being apart. Not many people have the luxury of that. I did
Richard writes this memoir in diary form. The diary is maintained in order for the most part but chronologically, there is some jumping around, as memories are recalled and discussed. Dinner parties with friends. Movies that Richard has made. The complete fan worship that Richard has for Barbra Streisand. The odd award ceremony and more. But one event controls the narrative of the book and it’s entire direction.
The book is centred around Joan’s battle with lung cancer. There is no sugar coating the details. Whether it be the shock from diagnosis. Thoughts and emotions of family. How some friends stepped up, and how others were not heard from again. How Richard overshares everything and how Joan comes across more introverted. Every aspect is discussed.
I have read reviews that comment how how hard this is to read if you have been in a similar situation. I have. I lost my husband in 2019 to something other than cancer. I then lost my mum in 2021 to lung cancer. As I read Richards words, my Mums diagnosis, all of our feelings and tears, they all played out on the page. A revisit of days gone past. Joan’s cancer, some of her treatments, her prognosis, and how her illness overtook her with fatigue and confusion nearer the end, were all written reminders of what I had been through, almost exact reminders.
Unless you’ve lost a spouse, you really don’t get the pain and grief. It is a different grief, overwhelming and raw in nature. Part of me wanted to pick up the phone to Richard and tell him “I know exactly how you feel”. I’m a widow. I feel those same feelings. The way life is now “me not us” and how things are “mine not ours”. It’s draining and brutal in nature. I also wanted to hug Olivia. Having lost a mum, I’m in her shoes. A mum is a girls first female friend and biggest confidante, I know how she feels.
This book could be called raw and heartbreaking but there is an underlying beauty to it. The beauty of that love story. That to me, was the underlying story. The intensity of how they felt for each other. How they worked together as a family, to ensure Joan got to stay at home through her illness, as she’d wanted. This book honoured a beautiful legacy. ‘The Story of Richard and Joan’