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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars68
4.3 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 28 September 2001
This is Alan Bennett at his delightful, humorous and poignant best. The story never ceases to fascinate in its convoluted structure, and Bennett's reading of his own work is, as ever, a joy. There are few writers who manage at the same time to be intellectually satisfying, funny, and yet moving, but Bennett is one of them. Never was Keats' famous line 'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever,' more applicable to a work of literature. It cannot be too highly recommended!
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on 12 March 2002
Alan Bennett's latest is a typically engaging, character based story. The opening drama is set at a memorial service for a young masseur. The congregation being liberally sprinkled with minor and not so minor celebrities - all of whom have had some encounters with the young man, many being of a sexual nature.
Bennetts reading gives voice to these characters including the vicar, though it is a far cry from his original vicar in Beyond the Fringe. The Laying on of Hands is a superb analysis of the shadows or truth that many have in their lives and their reactions when these secretive elements look likely to be uncovered in an all too public forum. The shadow of AIDS hangs over this piece almost as a threat of the result of promiscuity, though the results are anything but.
Highly recommended.
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on 30 June 2003
this must be the funniest thing i have ever listened to, it is side splittingly hilarious and the most observant and accurate description of all manner of people, all of whom we recognise somewhere in our lives. I have listened to it countless times, and it is a staple painting, gardening and odd job friend. Just watch you don't drop your brush or fall off the ladder.
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I first saw "The Laying On Of Hands" not on Amazon but in the spiritual surroundings of the bookshop beneath St Martin in the Fields. Father Joliffe, the priest at the heart of this little book, would have been quietly amused.
Like Bennett's previous miniature, "The Clothes They Stood Up In", these hundred or so small pages are full of wit and artless aperçus - "He was the kind of youth Modigliani painted and for a moment Geoffrey wondered if he was attractive, but decided he was just young."
Like many of the "Talking Heads", the story has inevitability as well as suspense and is packed with wry commentary on the state of the nation, and in particular the establishment and the Established Church.
There is the usual evidence of recyclage - the very different vicar in "Bed Amongst the Lentils" is also called Geoffrey, and Hopkins and an iconic ear-ring [ much more significant in 1978 !] first appeared in "Me, I'm afraid of Viriginia Woolf".
Essential reading for Alan Bennett's many fans, and worth an hour of anyone's time.
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on 12 June 2002
I first heard this book read by the author on 'A Book at Bedtime'; sleep not coming any easier afterwards in the light of its telling. The masterful manner of the story's unfolding, so wonderfully gauged in both pace and delivery, was a joy to behold. The simplicity of the storyline, a belated memorial service for a young man, Clive, cruelly struck down whilst abroad by some ill-defined malaise, is most intricately woven together with an assortment of characters who had meandered in and out of this young man's life.
Each is in the church for their own reason, the initially unspoken common denominator being the young man's extra-curricular activities of, shall we say, a carnal nature, in which most of those present had joyfully participated.
The story unfolds through a series of testimonies to the young man's character. He was known to them all, it would seem, in a variety of different ways.
The darker side of this story incorporates our fears of coming in contact with the unknown elements of the familiar, or at least with the unexpected and how we might come to terms with it. Had Clive succumbed to Aids or had his death come about from a more socially acceptable direction is a lynch-pin of this story.
Throughout the Reverend Jolliffe's thwarted attempts to conduct a simple service we are treated to a succession of Bennett's minutely observed characterisations, all of whom reflect the frailties, misunderstandings, perceptions and prejudices inherent in all of us when faced with the possible consequences of our own oft ill-judged actions;all of this tempered by subtle confusions.
Once the Pandorian box of human raison - d'etre had been opened, there was no closing it until the whole issue had been teased out to the satisfaction, if not the dire relief, of those present.
Archdeacon Treacher, the detached observer, himself not a practitioner of ready forgiveness, either to errant fellow clerics or fallen flocks, finds the whole business an embarrassingly self-indulgent episode. His is not to reason why, but merely to observe, record and report - retribution comes later, the Lord not having much of a say in the matter... To misquote GM Hopkins, "God is in His heaven and all is nearly right with the world." Another Hopkins, Greg that is, is the unassuming saviour in this story.
Anyone care for a small Amontillado before retiring?
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2006
I'd endorse everything everyone else has said here, though I didn't find it side-splittingly funny -- more gentle smiles at Bennett's observation, so beautifully crafted into words. It's certainly worth buying. You might like to note, though, that the double CD contains just the one story (I thought it would be a collection of short stories), which does perhaps go on just a bit too long. Excellent for a long car journey.
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on 24 November 2015
I was expecting a laugh out loud read but was very disappointed. I think I smiled once or twice but it was lost on me! I will stick to watching his work in future, maybe the audio book comes across funnier!
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on 3 December 2015
I have often looked around a church congregation most trying to look pious and in tune with God. Then there are the newly bereaved who felt they should attend for a week or two after the loved one's funeral. I liked this book because it embodies the frailty of complacent people who think they are beyond questioning as they are CELEBRITIES mostly self suggested and imposed ones. This book shows them as just like everyone else with all the same fears and anxieties.
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on 3 November 2014
My favourite of Alan Bennett's short stories, this is extremely light-hearted on the surface- there are several laugh-out-loud hilarious social observations- but there is thoughtful side to the story, and it's extremely well crafted.
The story is seen partly through the eyes of a priest who is…. no wait, I won't spoilt it for you! Read it for yourself, enjoy the wry humour and the unexpected twists and turns of the clever plot. It's absolutely cracking!
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on 12 January 2016
What a pity time travel is not possible because I can't help feeling that Charles Dickens would surely have so much to talk about with Alan Bennett. Both masters of human observation and portrayal. As we have come to expect Alan Bennett wastes no time in creating the scene and populating it with characters which seem familiar. He is a chuckle maker that causes others close by to cast curious looks in your direction. A short book but another masterpiece.
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