Joan Wyndham was born at Clouds, the family mansion at East Knoyle, Wiltshire, England, built by her famous great-grandfather Percy Wyndham. Her parents were a mismatched couple who split up by the time Joan was two years old. She was taken by her mother to live in London, and was sent beginning at age seven to Roman Catholic convent schools. Joan aspired in her youth to be an actress, and was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts as a teenager; however, she left after a year. During World War II, she studied art at Chelsea Polytechnic and served with the WAAFs, enjoying an adventurous life. After the war, she met and married her first husband, Maurice Rowdon, and followed him to Baghdad, where he had obtained a teaching job. The couple had a daughter but the marriage ended on their return to England. Her second marriage to Shura Shivarg, a Russian Jewish academic, produced another daughter. Their home in "Swinging London" was an open house for actors, artists and models, renowned for parties. Joan became an artist, a journalist, a cook, and a restaurant critic, among other occupations. She is best remembered for her sexually explicit diaries of wartime London and chronicles of bohemian life in her four volumes of memoirs: Love Lessons (1985), Love is Blue (1987), Anything Once (1992), and Dawn Chorus (1994).