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Search tags: Alan-Bennett
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review 2017-02-28 20:34
An Empathetic Portrait
The Lady In The Van - Alan Bennett

The musings of Alan Bennett, based on his observations of people and his experience of life in general, are almost guaranteed too draw a smile from even the most world-weary. As one reads his diarised account of life after the eccentric Miss Shepherd had moved her clapped-out van into his front garden.....and then stayed for fifteen years, it is hard not to be touched by a mixture of humour and pathos, which is both funny and moving in equal measure. 

So improbable is the bizarre sequence of events that 'you couldn't make it up' and the knowledge that Bennett is recounting 'real life' somehow adds to the riveting nature of the book. Though now a 'major motion picture' starring Dame Maggie Smith, as I read, I could frequently 'hear' Bennett's distinctive northern, nasally voice, wanting to remain compassionate, but nonplussed by the chaotic and seemingly irrational choices made by his visitor. Yet, it is hard not to have more than a sneaking regard for the enigmatic Miss Shepherd. Though seemingly destined to persistently rail against conforming to social norms, Miss Shepherd is nonetheless like an iceberg, with only a small fraction of herself showing above the community waterline. Indeed, perhaps it was the prospect of hidden depths, which so intrigued the author.

Still, we can also applaud Mr Bennett for his very uncommon response, in the circumstances, which has permitted a tender, yet unsentimental portrait of a  fascinating human being. Since, Miss Shepherd could potentially be any one of us, Bennett also manages to make a powerful case for tolerance and an acceptance of difference. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, there is perhaps an argument here suggesting that same village may also foster a dignified end of life for our elders.

 

By including an epilogue, the author also provided a thoughtful conclusion, which deftly answered some of the questions arising about Miss Shepherd's past. This was my first foray into the written work of Alan Bennett, but from this example, it is easy to see why he is regarded by many as a national treasure. I look forward to more dipping into a substantial body of work.

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quote 2016-08-12 16:47
The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
The History Boys - Alan Bennett

The History Boys - Alan Bennett 

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review 2016-02-14 00:00
The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett A travelling library makes its weekly stop at Buckingham Palace. The Queen borrows a book. Then she discovers the joy of reading. This book started off just okay and ended worse.
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review 2015-12-16 00:00
The History Boys: The Film
The History Boys: The Film - Alan Bennett,Nicholas Hytner Quite nostalgic about the movie.

This screenplay is similar to [b:Dead Poets Society|67238|Dead Poets Society |N.H. Kleinbaum|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1359814692s/67238.jpg|1207563], only more sexualized: sexual molestation and homosexuality. In spite of them, it is a fun book, a slice of life about 8 students (The History Boys), and their Professors. All characters are colorful and likeable (yes, even the professor who likes to grope his students -made me wonder why the students allow it? Did they care so much for the professor it was kind of OK with them?-). I don't know if it is because of the movie, but it was a script easy to read, and when I got to the end, I got sad with the epilogue.

There are two versions of this book. This one includes an introduction by Nicholas Hytner (the director of the movie), Alan Benett's film diary, and lots of photographs, which helped me to remind me who was who.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something -a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things- which you had thought special and particular to you. Now there it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.
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review 2015-11-13 00:00
The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett This book was a joy to read from beginning to end. As soon as the Queen's badly behaved dogs ran into the traveling library and she discovered it's existence, I was hooked. Her transformation from nonreader, to passionate reader, to writer was truly beautiful to read. One of the most delightful parts of the book was how the Queen's advisors tried to secretly sabotage her reading and her reaction to their attempts.

One of my favorite parts was when she hid her book behind the cushion in her carriage during an event. When she returned, the book was gone. When she found out that her security had thought the book might be a "device" and destroyed it (really it was just hidden from her), she simply declared that a new copy had better find its way to her desk by morning and continued her journey, leaving behind a very unhappy staff member. It was a perfect moment.

I often found myself chuckling out loud as I read some of Her Majesty's responses to her staff and their bumbling attempts to discourage her reading. I will not give away any more of the story but I highly recommend picking this book up. I may even read it a second time!
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