An unusually honest account of the jumbled-up feelings of sadness and madness that grief produces ... Runcie describes his book as a 'love letter', and one danger of grief memoirs is that love ends up replacing the deceased person with a saint or a Stepford wife ... Here, Runcie generously fulfils the promise of his title, which he explains was one of his wife’s favourite expressions when greeting friends... because his memoir is full of good things: stories that reveal Imrie’s sharp intelligence, her bold fashion sense, her glee at pricking the bubble of pretension ... Runcie is also touchingly honest in recognising that his wife wasn’t perfect... while still marvelling at her ability to find good things even at the end of her life.
Runcie has written a love letter to the woman who, when he announced to his parents that he was going to marry her, prompted a less than ecstatic response ... Runcie... credits Imrie with turning him into a novelist. For all her lavishness of speech... she had a scalpel sense when it came to text. She encouraged Runcie to cut anything slack or sloppy from his drafts, so what was left was the pure essence of character and the logical energy of a story that could only end one way. These are qualities that Runcie brings to this memoir.
This is by no means a depressing read ... [Runcie] deploys those literary powers to impressive effect, adroitly conveying the tragedy of Imrie’s decline without ever becoming mawkish or defiling the dignity of a woman who couldn’t bear for friends to witness her deterioration ... Given their shared immersion in the theatrical world, Runcie’s narrative makes liberal use of stage terminology ... Over 200 luminous pages, we get a powerful sense of a vivacious, clever human being who enriched the lives of her friends, family and even we strangers.