- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: Profile Books; New Ed edition (18 Mar. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1861971222
- ISBN-13: 978-1861971227
- Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 0.8 x 15 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (897 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Lady in the Van Paperback – 18 Mar 1999
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More About the Author
Life imitates art in The Lady in the Van, the story of the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway from the early1970s until her death in 1989. It is doubtful that Bennett could have made up the eccentric Miss Shepherd if he tried, but his poignant, funny but unsentimental account of their strange relationship is akin to his best fictional screen writing.
Bennett concedes that "One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation", but as the plastic bags build up, the years pass by and Miss Shepherd moves into Bennett's driveway, a relationship is established which defines a certain moment in late 20th-century London life which has probably gone forever. The dissenting, liberal, middle-class world of Bennett and his peers comes into hilarious but also telling collision with the world of Miss Shepherd: "there was a gap between our social position and our social obligations. It was in this gap that Miss Shepherd (in her van) was able to live".
Bennett recounts Miss Shepherd's bizarre escapades in his inimitable style, from her letter to the Argentinean Embassy at the height of the Falklands War, to her attempts to stand for Parliament and wangle an electric wheelchair out of the Social Services. Beautifully observed, The Lady in the Van is as notable for Bennett's attempts to uncover the enigmatic history of Miss Shepherd, as it is for its amusing account of her eccentric escapades. --Jerry Brotton
"...a wonderfully bittersweet comic diary of the years in which a lethally dotty and very smelly old bat parked her unroadworthy vehicle in Bennett's Camden garden, thereby providing him with a roughly equal amount of good journalistic copy and guilty landlordly irritation." Sheridan Morley, Spectator" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This is a remarkable story, and its one of the funniest yet moving pieces of writing that I have ever read. Bennett is a marvellous observer of people and his humanity shines through. Miss Shephard's living conditions were frankly disgusting (just think of the smell) and this would be enough to put most people off having any contact with her at all.
Bennett here has written one of the finest works of moving and poignant non-fiction I know of.
As the book was created from notes he had made relating to Miss Shepherd in his diary over a number of years, there is not one story running through this book. What emerges, however, is an honest and touching but never sentimental story of a enigmatic character - a real one-of-a-kind.
Already produced as a memoir and well-received play, the tale of the eccentric “Miss Shepherd” who squatted in a dilapidated van on the forecourt of Alan Bennett’s London home for fifteen years, has now become a film. It is marked out by Maggie Smith’s superb and flawless performance which captures a sense of the maddening, manipulative woman who is tolerated, and even helped in an ineffectual way, by a possibly somewhat caricatured group of comfortably off, self-styled liberal-minded middle class neighbours too polite to behave otherwise.
Commencing in the 1970s, the drama has the nostalgic air of past, somehow more innocent and less fraught times, predating the tight parking restrictions, health and safety concerns and care plans for the elderly (however inadequately implemented) of today. When the council comes round with a yellow-line painting machine, Alan Bennett caves in and allows the new van donated by a local titled Catholic do-gooder to be driven onto his driveway. It is not long before Miss Shepherd conducts her ritual of plastering the vehicle with yellow paint thickened with lumps of Madeira cake.
Alan Bennett uses the interesting device of cloning himself as the put upon resident and more cynical writer (given to talking to each other) who recognises Miss Shepherd’s potential to be milked for future publication. To some extent, the two main characters use each other, with the comic touch of Alan conducting a conversation with the old lady while his alter ego interjects “but this was never said – I made it up”.Read more ›
I could go on forever about his writing absolutely fantastic her passing away and the story around it was very poignant
Most Recent Customer Reviews
very good read, sad and typical Alan Bennett book. recommended.Published 16 hours ago by Mr. Dj Raven
Very amusing, had a grin on my face all through reading. A good read.Published 19 hours ago by Sandy