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The Lady in the Van Paperback – 18 Mar 1999

4.2 out of 5 stars 897 customer reviews

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Product details

  • 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)

More About the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for stage including Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, The Madness of George III (together with the Oscar-nominated screenplay The Madness of King George), and an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. At the National Theatre, London, The History Boys won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for Best New Play and the South Bank Award. On Broadway, The History Boys won five New York Drama Desk Awards, four Outer Critcs' Circle Awards, a New York Drama Critics' Award, a New York Drama League Award and six Tony's. The Habit of Art opened at the National in 2009. His collection of prose, Untold Stories, won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. The Uncommon Reader was published in 2007.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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

Review

"...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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is small, short, happy, sad and sweet. It was a perfect gift for someone who appreciates the human side of humans. Perfectly written, honestly described and just right. Some people are very special and this book contains more than its fair share of them all told.
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This is such an interesting light read. Not only is Alan Bennett a talented writer, he is clearly a very kind and tolerant human being. He has found himself in a unique situation that not many of us could live alongside - nor our neighbours! He describes the practical issues if Miss S camping on his driveway tactfully with a degree of humour and, on occasion, very slight irritation. What a better world this would be if there were more Alan Bennetts in it.
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Format: Paperback
'The Lady in the Van' is a completely true story. In the 1970's and 1980's outside Alan Bennett's own house in Camden an old lady (Miss Shepherd) lived in a Van in the street. After a time she could no longer stay on the street. Amazingly Bennett allowed her to move her Van into his garden and there she remained until she died.

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.
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Miss Shepherd is in many ways a typical Alan Bennett character - often very funny yet sometimes tragic and with an interesting tale to tell. She could easily be one of the characters from his 'Talking Heads' monologues. However, this is a work of non-fiction and she actually did come with her collection of plastic bags to live in her van on his front drive - and stayed for a number of years. Bennett brilliantly manages to convey the delicate balance present in their complex relationship, even when it doesn't show him in the most positive of light. As he puts it: 'One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.' Don't we all know someone like that?

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.
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I recently saw the play of this and was astonished and bowled over. I bought the book to get some more insight but have to say it didn't thrill me. But I'm sure it would have if I hadn't seen the play... it's such an amazing story and Bennett has an extraordinary eye for seeign the amazing in the ordinary. If you haven't read Bennett before and want to try one of these little editions then go for http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Uncommon-Reader-Alan-Bennett/dp/1846681332/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1340905732&sr=1-1 - now THAT'S a gem! But then, I hadn't seen the play before reading it ;)
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By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Nov. 2015
Format: Paperback
THIS IS A REVIEW OF THE FILM WHICH I HAVE NOW DISPLAYED IN THE CORRECT PLACE, BUT I AM LEAVING IT HERE AS WELL SINCE IT HAS RECEIVED POSITIVE FEEDBACK

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”.
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read this story before also seen the play at the theatre by the lake in Keswick. The play had other experiences in it there are so many lines in it which have pathos and humour - I know the story is true but it really is a larger than life experience. In the play she is painting the van and Alan Bennett asks what the colour was Hues of Mimosa was her reply and the reason why it was lumpy is because she had dropped her cake in it.

I could go on forever about his writing absolutely fantastic her passing away and the story around it was very poignant
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