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Showing results for tags 'alan bennett'.
The Ransomes, a middle-aged, middle-class couple living in North London, return home to their mansion flat, from a night at the opera, and discover they have been burgled. But this is no ordinary burglary. Every single thing in their home has been taken. They are greeted with only bare floor boards and walls. All the possessions they are left with, in the world, are the clothes they are wearing. In this novella, Alan Bennett strips this middle-class couple of all their belongings and therefore forces them to re-examine their position in society, what does it mean to be them. In very Bennett style, the wife here flourishes, using this as a chance to explore the local community around her, that previously she had just passed through to get to somewhere else. The husband, though, stripped of his possessions, fails to cope. All that seemed to have made him, his possessions, have been taken away. This is a slim volume but Bennett still manages to pack a punch with his sparse prose, with many touches of his sharp and on-the-nail humour. Though not a subject always associated with him, this is Bennett on firm territory, he knows these middle-class people and what brings them down. Bennett uses an unusual premise to write a character study of a couple suddenly thrown out of the rut their lives had comfortably fallen into. As with much of his previous prose, this is a short but enjoyable read, and easily re-read. Find it here on Amazon
It is the memorial service of Clive Dunlop, masseur to the great and good. His “magic touch” was in great demand, plus the extras he sometimes provided. But Clive has died, aged only 34, from a sudden illness, and many of the mourners there are worried about what exactly he died from. Using the memorial service as a framing device, Alan Bennett has created a story of regret and repressed emotions. At the heart of it is Father Geoffrey Jolliffe who is both leading the memorial service and also mourning the loss of Clive, who was more than a friend to him but not quite his lover. This is Bennett at his best, writing about a subject that he captures with precise and concise detail, lost and repressed emotions. The memorial service, which works as the perfect framing device, Bennett uses to explore his characters’ emotions, with many of them remembering their Clive, the Clive they knew, which isn’t the same Clive as everyone else there knew. He also doesn’t miss the moments of humour when he satirises the world of media, television personalities and reality TV celebrities. This is a world he seems to know well. This is classic Alan Bennett but still Alan Bennett on top-level form. This story ripples with his insight and wit. It’s just a shame it is so short, ending far too soon. Find it here on Amazon
Betty Forbes has a handsome and well-dressed new husband, Graham. The problem is that Graham would rather watch Footballers with Their Shirts Off, on late-night television, than go to bed with his new wife. Graham does not want anyone finding out that he “isn’t the marrying kind,” especially his wife or his mother. This all generates a plot of sex, lies and blackmail in West Yorkshire. This short story is Alan Bennett’s take on a sex comedy; unfortunately, it is low on sex and the comedy often misses the mark. Bennett has always been best when he is writing about people he knows, people he has grown up with and/or lived around. Here he is writing about the new middle class, the people whose parents prospered under Thatcher and have now moved into the middle class, living in their new out-of-town housing developments (just don’t call them estates), and he just doesn’t know these people well enough to get under their skin and make his characters live. The characters here feel flat and the plot does not have the real feeling I am used to with Bennett’s writing. The characters feel as if they are there to serve the plot, rather than the plot coming out of their actions, and the plot just took one too many unrealistic turns. This story just failed to score a bullseye, though it doesn’t fully miss its target. Anything by Alan Bennett is worth reading, he isn’t the waste of time and effect I can feel trying to read lesser writers, but sadly this isn’t one of his top-level stories. It is a fun read but doesn’t provide the insight and depth that stories like The Uncommon Reader and The Lady in the Van did. Find it here on Amazon
Alan Bennett has become inextricably linked with the life of Miss Shepherd, the tramp (by her behaviour and attitudes she could never be called anything else) who lived in a derelict van on his driveway for nearly twenty years, but this book is where it all began. Though this is a slim volume it still carries so much pathos. It is constructed from entries from Bennett’s diary that chronicle his relationship with Miss Shepherd. It began when he allowed her to park her van, in which she lived, in his driveway, to avoid the new residents’ parking restrictions in his area of North London. He intends it as a short time arrangement, but it runs into a nearly twenty-year residency. Bennett’s book chronicles Miss Shepherd’s eccentric behaviour and beliefs, which are uncomfortably far right. At the beginning of the book her actions are portrayed as comic, and she certainly gets some of the best lines in the book. But as the book progresses the tone slowly becomes darker, Miss Shepherd’s behaviour more poignant than comic. Her own preparation for her death is so sadly poignant. It is only after her death that Bennett is able to piece together the real events of her life, which her eccentric behaviour hid when alive. This book is unsentimental in its portrayal of Miss Shepherd, her life and the effects she had on those around her. So many times Bennett recounts how angry and frustrated he was by her, Miss Shepherd was never grateful for any help given her. But it also illustrates a life that fell through the huge cracks in Thatcher’s Britain. Miss Shepherd was at the bottom of the economic ladder, so poor her home was a broken-down old van, with mental health problems, surviving on the charity of local people. Though a short volume this book is a fascinating read, a chronicle of life that could have been so easily forgotten about once she had died. Find it here on Amazon Drew
This novella has a simple but enjoyable premise, which Alan Bennett exploits with his sharp and intelligent wit. The queen, unusually for her, is at a loose end in Buckingham Palace and goes for walk. Around a corner she doesn’t usually walk around she discovers a mobile library. Thinking it rude not to, she borrows a book from it. This first book sets her off on an odyssey of reading. She reads for pleasure, but also her reading educates her and opens her mind. And all this reading leads to a surprising ending. Bennett was the first playwright to include the queen as a character in a play, to have an actress portray her on the London stage. Her character stole the second act of his double bill of one-act plays, Single Spies. Here he portrays her as the central character of this story, through whose eyes we watch the gently unfolding events. Bennett’s prose is simple but still very enjoyable, and his wit is not dampened here. There are many jokes and comic scenes, again with the queen getting some of the best lines. But Bennett’s prose is also very readable; you can almost hear his distinctive voice as you read it. His characterisation of the queen is gentle and affectionate; he doesn’t send her up or portray her as too privileged and out-of-touch. But her character is written very much to serve his plot. This book is about the power and necessity of reading. Here books are a gateway into a new way of thinking and ultimately living. This story is also about the power and necessity of public libraries. The queen doesn’t discover the power of literature from the books hidden away in her own private library but from that most public of public libraries, a mobile library. It is ironic that Bennett uses a mobile library as the trigger for his plot, the thing that was invented to provide libraries to our remotest communities here turning up in the centre of London. This is only a slight book, a novella, but no less enjoyable for it. Bennett knows exactly when to end it and how to quietly make his points. Find it here on Amazon