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Joyce Grenfell: A Biography [Paperback]

Janie Hampton
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2003
Joyce Grenfell (1910-1979) was a British institution and one of the country's best-loved entertainers. She achieved success as a writer and performer of songs and monologues on stage and radio at a time when it was unusual for a woman of her background to work at all.

Joyce revealed little about her private life in her two autobiographies, and after her death her image was fiercely guarded by her husband and friends, so that she came to be remembered as almost unnaturally perfect. Now, at last, it is possible to show her human failings as well as her humour, kindness and generosity.

Janie Hampton explores Joyce's intense relationship with her brother and her mother; her childlessness; her love affair with Prince Aly Khan; her mixed feelings about the theatre; her moving acts of philanthropy and her faith in Christian Science which enabled her to endure the pain of cancer without medical treatment. The result is an affectionate portrait of a unique, complex and lovable person.

Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray; New edition edition (4 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719564905
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719564901
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 434,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janie Hampton was born in London in 1952. After her mother, the writer Verily Anderson, was widowed, she supported her five children by writing fiction & non-fiction; books for children & adult; plays and articles. Janie woke every morning to the sound of a typewriter, and learned that the only way to get anything published is to get on and write! She also learned that you have to write a lot of unpublished books and articles too. She sent her first book to a publisher when she was ten. It was not published, but the publisher sent an encouraging letter.
Janie's first published book was a child care manual for schools in sub-Saharan Africa, called 'Happy Healthy Children', in 1985. She wrote it because she needed a book like that while working in Zimbabwe - and there wasn't one available.
Since then she has written over a dozen books - long and short; fiction & non-fiction; for adults and children. She finds writing hard work, but enjoys the results, especially when readers write nice letters to her.
Her latest book 'Rationing and Revelry - the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953' is her first e-book. She liked the fact that within days of finishing the book, it was published and available to readers.
When she is not writing, Janie enjoys playing with her grandchildren, walking in woods with her husband, and raising funds for the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust, a charity she founded in 2009 to renovate Africa's oldest ship into a clinic for Lake

Product Description


'Using Joyce's journals and her extensive output of letters, this is an extremely well-written and detailed account which reveals the real and wonderful Joyce' (This England 2003-04-01)

'Hampton has produced a winner' (The Sunday Telegraph 2001-12-01)

'This is undoubtedly the definitive life of Grenfell' (The Literary Review 2002-12-01)

'Hampton has turned her lesson plans into a popular book' (The Independent Review - Jane Matthews 2005-03-01)

'This full and surely definitive biography' (Mail on Sunday 2003-01-05)

'Like her subject, Hampton is well organised, with an excellent eye for detail' (The Sunday Times 2002-11-10)

About the Author

Janie Hampton is the author of a dozen books and the editor of 'Joyce and Ginnie', the letters of Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham, and 'Hats Off', a volume of Joyce Grenfell's poetry and drawings. She has been a BBC World Service producer and a planner of health projects in Africa. She and her husband have four grown-up children and live in Oxford.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read 28 Dec 2002
By A Customer
A life-long younger fan (age 33) of Joyce Grenfell, having read both instalments of her autobiographies, as well as earlier published letters and diaries, I was intrigued to know more about this unique character. It is true indeed that all the works published to date had been clearly 'vetted' by Joyce or those close to her to uphold her wholesome reputation and I wanted to know some more of the facts that were clearly missing. However, I was anxious that this first biography would not be a snide, bitchy account of someone I had grown to admire from a distance. Janie Hampton treats her account of Joyce with sympathy, whilst letting the erstwhile unknown facts speak for themselves. We get a wider sense of Joyce's personality, both as an entertainer and private person, without any wild conjecture from the author. Whilst there are no major revelations in this biography, it is interesting to learn more of Joyce's earlier life and the complexity of her relationships with her family and friends. We learn more of how her self-confessed 'bossiness', evident in some of her monologue characters, was received with great irritation by some people and a sense of resignation from her beloved husband. Joyce Grenfell was born into the 'poor' branch of an aristocratic family and this book reveals that she tended to be seen by those around her in the entertainment industry as a talented amateur performer with connections. Notwithstanding, Joyce did have great talent and skill within her particular field and the biography does not demean this. Nor does it undermine the innate sense of decency and kindness that Joyce demonstrated all her life and the happiness this brought to both herself and those around her. Read more ›
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Joyce Grenfell: A Biography 23 July 2003
By A Customer
I had always enjoyed watching Joyce Grenfell, in the St. Trinian's films and brought this book to find out more about the woman behind the moving image. The book was a revelation and deals sensitively with the less well publiscised aspects of her life. It is a moving book that is well written, and a good introduction to a talented performer, at times it is very moving and this is one of the few books that I was geniunely sorry to have finished.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In-depth and affectionate biography 21 Mar 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This biography of the much-loved Joyce Grenfell is not the cosy collection of anecdotes that some readers may expect. It is an in-depth, very well-researched book from somebody who knew Joyce Grenfell personally, but has not let her affection for the subject to blind her to her(albeit minor) faults.
There are no sordid revelations, but there are aspects to Joyce Grenfell's life that are not well-known, and it is refreshing to read these 'uncensored'. I highly recommend this book, which fans of Joyce Grenfell will certainly enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Joyce Grenfell 31 Aug 2013
By lilo
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Love her work and it was an extremely good read. She had a very interesting, fulfilled life, and carried out many acts of kindnesses.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 29 Mar 2011
By Anne
I ordered the book for my Father. The delivery was made in days and was received in very good condition. Amazing value for money aswell. Thank you
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