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The Lady in the Van (Faber Plays) [Kindle Edition]

Alan Bennett
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Adapted by the author from his autobiographical memoir, The Lady in the Van tells the story of Miss Mary Shepherd, whom Alan Bennett first came across when she was living in the street near his home in Camden Town. Taking refuge with her van in his garden originally for three months, she ended up staying fifteen years. Funny, touching and unexpectedly spectacular, The Lady in the Van marked the return to the stage of one of our leading playwrights.

The Lady in the Van with Maggie Smith opened at the Queen's Theatre, London, in December 1999.

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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


"...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"

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 192 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber Fiction; Main edition (19 Feb. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9YA0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #161,839 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing work of non-fiction 16 Nov. 2008
'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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a good read 28 July 2010
By coney
The Lady in the Van is well worth reading. Alan Bennett is an excellent writer and holds the reader's attention all the way through the story.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful little book 19 July 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars charming 15 April 2011
By aee
a lovely little read, written in Bennett's sharp observations, the tone is sometimes funny, sometimes incredulous and sometimes very touching. i wish i'd met her!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lady in the van 18 Feb. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read the book after listening to a play based on it on Radio 4. It was an interesting mixture of humour and sadness. My main criticism was how short it was. Surely it would have been better as part of a series of short stories perhaps. However I enjoyed it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and Confusing 25 Mar. 2015
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I didn't expect the book to be written as a play but as a story. I found it disjointed and confusing. I saw a trailer of the film and thought I would enjoy the book but unfortunately I didn't. I do however think Maggie Smith will make a superb Miss Shepherd.
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4.0 out of 5 stars see the play if you can 28 Jun. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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 - now THAT'S a gem! But then, I hadn't seen the play before reading it ;)
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5.0 out of 5 stars he is my favourite author 6 Jun. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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