Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier

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Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier

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Category: Biography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: The life of Dad's Army star written by his widow makes an entertaining but never sickly read. Sadly it's not an easy book to get hold of these days but it is worth the effort.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 200 Date: September 2001
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd
ISBN: 978-0283063725

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I really enjoy reading biographies and always find I learn a lot about the subject that I didn't know before. Recently, I read the Hattie Jacques biography by Andrew Merriman. Hattie was once married to Dad's Army star John Le Mesurier and I had a biography on him in my ever-growing 'To Be Read' pile, so I chose that to read next. I felt it would add an extra dimension to what I had learned about Hattie's life – and indeed it did.

Dear John is written by Joan Le Mesurier, who married John after he split up from Hattie Jacques. Joan has also written Lady Don't Fall Backwards, a memoir of her time with Tony Hancock, a TV adaptation of which was recently shown on BBC 4.

I began reading Dear John with the sole objective of discovering more about an actor I only really knew from Dad's Army, but had always liked in the role and felt he was a genuinely 'nice bloke'. I was soon swept up into the story and read steadily over the next few days, without my interest waning.

As the title suggests, the book is written as a tribute to John and includes copies of several letters he both wrote and received during the latter years of his life. These are often amusing and make a nice break from the usual chunks of standard text, but I still preferred the parts where Joan reminisced about her life with him and some of the things they did together.

John worked steadily throughout most of his life and the book is peppered with anecdotes about the plays, films, TV and radio work he was involved in. He also mentions his encounters and friendship with some of the actors he met – always staying the right side of 'luvvie' - including his co-stars of Dad's Army – Arthur Lowe, James Beck and Clive Dunn especially. Clive Dunn's tribute poem to John closes the book.

Not only did I find Dear John to be a fascinating read and easy to get into, I was also impressed by Joan's writing style. I assume she wrote it herself, as she has written a couple of others books, there is no mention of a ghost writer and her voice came over well.

Her warmth, love and affection for her late husband are very evident, but her words are never too sickly-sweet or overly sentimental. When reading it, I could almost visualize her writing it, smiling to herself remembering her husband and occasionally laughing out loud at some of the things he said and did.

John Le Mesurier seems to have been rather like Sergeant Wilson in real life too – a gentleman, old-fashioned, charming, intellectual, well-read and just that bit bumbling at times. But more of his character and personality show themselves too, especially his dry wit, sense of irony and clever witty retorts.

I enjoyed ‘meeting' John Le Mesurier through his wife's words and memories and I liked both of them. I would definitely recommend Dear John to any of Le Mesurier's fans. Sadly, it is quite difficult to find this book these days, as it was published in 2001. I bought my copy from Ebay, but try the free book swapping sites or just borrow it from the library.

If you enjoy this type of book then we can recommend Hello by Leslie Phillips.

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Buy Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dear John by Joan Le Mesurier at


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