Valerie Grosvenor Myer

Ian Herbert
,

Former Stage reviewer Valerie Grosvenor Myer, who has died at the age of 72, was noted as a novelist, critic and teacher.

She was born in 1935 in the Forest of Dean, daughter of Donald Godwin, a miner, and his wife Margaret, a policeman’s daughter. Leaving school at 16 she trained as a librarian, later working as a journalist for the Forest Dean Mercury.

On moving to Kent in 1958 she became chief court reporter for the Dartford Chronicle, and subsequently held editorial positions on the women’s magazines Housewife and Flair. In 1959 she married the writer Michael Grosvenor Myer, who persuaded her to apply for a mature scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, where she was taught by FR Leavis’ wife Queenie, graduating in 1966 with a first in English.

After a short period of teaching she returned to journalism at The Times Literary Supplement and subsequently as literary and features editor of The Teacher. Puritanism and Permissiveness, her 1974 study of Margaret Drabble’s novels, was the first of many published works, including the novels Culture Shock and The Butterfly Heart, the latter based on her experiences as a teacher in Beijing at the time of the 1988 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. She gave shelter to some of her students at the time, and was advised to leave by any means possible – which included the US Embassy bus. She later returned to Beijing to teach, after an equally eventful spell in Sierra Leone.

Her last major work, courageously begun after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, was as English co-editor of the Continuum Encyclopedia of British Literature (2003). Living near Cambridge, in the village of Haddenham, she and her husband were assiduous theatregoers, and for many years before her illness prevented it she reviewed East Anglian theatre for both the Guardian and The Stage.

Ian Herbert

Stage editor Brian Attwood writes:

Valerie Grosvenor Myer played a key role for many years in The Stage’s regional coverage and was a much-respected critic whose contribution is greatly missed.

Ian Herbert

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The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. Photo: Noel Foster