Book Review – The Lady in the Van By Alan Bennett

I mentioned watching the film a couple of months ago and now as promised a book review…

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Lets start with the blurb…

In 1974, the homeless Miss Shepherd moved her broken down van into Alan Bennett’s garden. Deeply eccentric and stubborn to her bones, Miss Shepherd was not an easy tenant. And Bennett, despite inviting her in the first place, was a reluctant landlord. And yet she lived there for fifteen years.

This account of those years was first published in 1989 in the London Review of Books. The play premiered in 1999, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Dame Maggie Smith, who reprise their roles in this new film adaptation. Shot on location at Bennett’s house, Alex Jennings plays the author, alongside household names including Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent and Dominic Cooper.

When I watched the film I was struggling to remember certain aspects of the book, I read it years ago and like the other work by Bennett I have read I thoroughly enjoyed it but intrinsically the nature of his writing does not lend itself to film, they tend to be monologues best suited to stage or television where one person addressing the audience/viewer seems more natural than on the big screen. The film uses a dual personality to reflect the diary voice of Bennett but I admit for this one as much as I enjoyed the film I prefer this written format. It feels more personal as if you are reading his actual diary at times.

One of the things I find most fascinating is they way we make assumptions, we think we know about people yet so often our actual knowledge is pitifully lacking as we see as Bennett discovers much of the past only after the events have taken place, we judge people without stopping to wonder how they came to the place they are in now.

I will say that many of Bennett’s monologues or Talking Heads series are better listened to, I love the audio books of them but this is one I do enjoy reading.

It has to be 5 out of 5 stars.

Gold star

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