Book Review: Richard E. Grant’s A Pocketful of Happiness is a love letter to Joan Washington

A Pocketful of Happiness

A book about staring down the barrel of a stage four cancer diagnosis could have made for grim reading. But beloved actor, Richard E. Grant brings his likeable nature and positive personality to the unsurprisingly-named, A Pocketful of Happiness. This memoir is a love letter to his darling wife, Joan Washington, and a reminder of the things that truly matter in life.

As many of you know, Grant was originally born in Swaziland before moving to the UK to pursue acting. He met Washington, a vocal coach and sparks flew. He would affectionately call her ‘The Colonel’ and ‘Monkee.’ The pair were almost together long enough to celebrate their Ruby Anniversary and were happily married for thirty-five years.

This book is made up of diary entries and predominantly focuses on 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Washington received a terminal diagnosis. Grant describes how they each deal with things, mostly through good humour and kindness. The entries are made up of anecdotes and some of this is very life-affirming, making it not dissimilar to Tuesdays with Morrie.

Fans of Grant’s will also enjoy the flashbacks that dot this book. He recalls meeting the quick-witted Washington with a spunky personality to match her Laurie Anderson haircut in the eighties. His other great love is also included: one Barbara Streisand. This is a woman whose likeness was used as inspiration for a large statue and there’s even photographic proof!

This actor has an impressive CV with credits including Withnail & I, The Wah-Wah Diaries, Spice World and Can You Ever Forgive Me? The latter even saw Grant receive an Oscar nomination. Grant includes stories from the sets of each of these films and more. These make the affable actor seem even more charming and humble than ever.

This book deals with some big emotions like love and pain but it is an easy read. Grant is a gentleman who is simply devoted to his wife. This book really is a celebration of two soulmates, and how they lived and laughed. Those playing supporting roles are the couple’s daughter, Olivia, and their many famous friends.

A Pocketful of Happiness is about some of life’s unexpected joys. It offers Grant’s positive perspective during his final moments with his wife. The couple shared a great love and Washington clearly made a huge impact on many people’s lives. This book is a deep expression of love and appreciation for this one-of-a-kind woman whose memory lives on in these pages.


Richard E. Grant’s A Pocketful of Happiness is available now from Simon & Schuster Australia. Grab yourself a copy from Booktopia HERE.