Wednesday, 24 August 2011
JOYCE GRENFELL REQUESTS THE PLEASURE by Joyce Grenfell
Regular readers will understand from this that my Kindle has not yet arrived in Harare. I am thus reduced to reading whatever I can find on my parents' bookshelves. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem for someone else, as my parents own a lot of books, but unfortunately as my parents'child I have had an entire lifetime to read them. Thus, there is not much left. Thus, Joyce Grenfell.
In a move of striking originality, Grenfell begins her autobiography with her birth, which took place in a very nice part of London. Everything thereafter also seems to happen in a very nice part of London, unless it is happening in a very nice part of New York, or of Vancouver. Grenfell is born into a very wealthy family, and one of the more interesting aspects of this uninteresting book is an insight into the life of someone who does not ever need to work for a living. Her life appears to be a round of nannies and tea parties and dances. Family friends include theatre luminaries such as Noel Coward and Ivor Novello. Call me a cynic, but I'm going to go ahead and suggest that her success in show business may not have been down 100% to sheer talent and drive.
Here's a taster, a comment on her father's military service: “Like many men, he did not enjoy his time in the first world war.” Profound! And indicative of the book as a whole. Indeed, what I found most striking about this book was how very little Grenfell managed to share about her life, while writing a book about her life.
Even poor writers, when writing about themselves, usually manage to provide some insights; but this book is a miracle of emptiness. I wish I could give you some summary of her later life, and even reveal what after all a monologuist is, but I never got past adolescence, having to give up on Joyce Grenfell after the first hundred pages.