Jane Ridley

Wanderlust

Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor

By

Macmillan 348pp £25 order from our bookshop

Simon Fenwick is an archivist, and after Paddy Leigh Fermor died he was asked to fly to Greece to sort out his papers before they were returned to England. He filled nineteen cardboard boxes with Paddy’s notebooks, letters and records. Paddy’s wife, Joan, on the other hand, left hardly any papers. In his books Paddy barely mentions her. She was a diffident, private woman, and Fenwick’s biography is an attempt to rescue Joan from her husband’s shadow.

Joan’s life divides into two parts: before and after Paddy. She was born Joan Eyres Monsell in 1912. Her mother, Sybil Eyres, inherited a Leeds woollen fortune together with Dumbleton Hall, a Victorian mansion in Worcestershire. Her father, Bolton Monsell, was a naval officer with a long pedigree and little disposable income. When he married he double-barrelled his name, retired from the navy and used his wife’s money to finance a career in politics, ending up as a viscount and First Lord of the Admiralty. 

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,
    • 'Keynes predicted that future generations would enjoy such an improved standard of living that they might work just… ,
    • 'Various dislocations ... emerge, iceberg-like, out of a troubled sea of unconscious motivation and confront Eisenb… ,
    • Today is the first today of the – they've got some excellent events coming up over the next two weeks.… ,