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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like sitting at the feet of an imaginary favourite uncle...
Alan Bennett is a man of great humanity, who writes openly about closed lives in a way that feels very special. My gran used to shop at Bennett's father's shop, and I live across the river from Armley, where he grew up, so this episodic personal history has extra layers to it.
Yet there are plenty of layers for even the most casual reader - this could...
Published on 25 Jan 2006 by Simon Hall

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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable
This was a good and amusing read, but with 800 pages was rather daunting. However it can be read in sections.
Published 18 months ago by Sue


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like sitting at the feet of an imaginary favourite uncle..., 25 Jan 2006
By 
Simon Hall (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Alan Bennett is a man of great humanity, who writes openly about closed lives in a way that feels very special. My gran used to shop at Bennett's father's shop, and I live across the river from Armley, where he grew up, so this episodic personal history has extra layers to it.
Yet there are plenty of layers for even the most casual reader - this could easily be what I would call 'a bog book', although some parts would require quite severe constipation for successful completion in one go. There are snippets, remembrances, essays, criticism... This is basically a collection of all the best bits of Bennett's non-fiction writing.
There is barely a hair's breadth between much of this writing and that of something like 'Talking Heads', which carries the same level of affectionate honesty. Bennett seems to be such a dispassionate person, as if observing the world through glass, yet when one chooses to see the world from his happy-sad perspective, one is often moved to tears. I'm not sure I can explain it: sometimes it's like Mr Spock from Star Trek, mystified at humans in general, and human emotion in particular.
Bennett is not a religious man (although he had a religious upbringing), yet this book instills in me a sense of wonder at the ordinary things in life, and a hope that I, too, might see below the surface, even as I am staring at it, seeing nothing else.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for every bookshelf, 8 Dec 2005
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This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
I have returned to this book several times. I have laughed till I cried at the hilarious observations and choked up at the most poignantly sad passages, both aspects of Bennett's writing especially evident in 'The Lady in the Van' reproduced in its entirety in this collection. A gem of a book from a rare gem of a man.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A morning tonic to be taken daily., 13 Jun 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Any book that can relieve the tedium, grime and discomfort of London's Northern Line from East Finchley to Totenham Court Road, has to be given space in the work bag - even if it means elbowing the tupperware box of sarnies. This delightful collection of poignant and often amusing recollections and observations are a joy from beginning to end.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penny Clark, 14 Jan 2007
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P. M. Clark - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Fairly new to Alan Bennett, this book has given me the most enormous pleasure. It can be dipped into, or read in big doses with equal pleasure. He is able to show the reader the results of a fascinating life amongst the great and good, and also the very lowly. Very witty, but also thought-provoking.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing lessons, 3 Nov 2007
By 
S J Buck (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing Home (Hardcover)
If there is a spark of humanity in you read this book. Alan Bennett was part of the satire boom in early 60's and when neccessary has a caustic dry wit that can catch you by surprise sometimes. However for me what comes through in this book is his humanity.

The first section of the book where this is highlighted is his address at the funeral of Russell Harty, which only amounts to 7 pages. Harty was a successful TV show host and interviewer who was hounded by the press in the 1980's over his sexuality (he was homosexual and never tried to hide that fact). Bennetts address is full of compassion and will either leave you crying or plotting a nasty end to some of the gutter press.

'The Lady in the Van' is a full chapter (45 pages) and a completely true story. At one point it was available to buy as a seperate book and is taken largely from his diaries. 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 the council decided 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 truly a remarkable story. Bennett of course is a marvellous observer of people and there is a side of me that says he only did it so that he could watch her. However read 'The Lady in the Van' in full and you are left in doubt that Alan Bennett couldn't have done it for that reason, because Miss Shephard's living conditions were frankly disgusting and the smell.. well enough said. Its a truly moving and poignant story.

The diaries constitute a major section of the book amounting to 180 pages. These cover the years 1980 to 1995. There is a section of prefaces to plays as well as articles on writers and filming. These other sections of the book are of the same high standard of writing as the two I mention above, if not all on quite the same emotional level.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In and out, 2 Jun 2013
By 
Simon Barrett "Il penseroso" (london, england) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing Home (Hardcover)
Simon Callow, in a review of this book's sequel, produced this Wildean mot: Bennett 'has joined the ranks of the non-joiners'. It would be nice to hear these words repeated at his funeral (not imminent, I trust)

Who knew Bennett would be the stayer among the fab four of review (variety's more refined cousin), those harbingers of the Sixties, the Beyond the Fringe quartet? But this late developer and unwitting dissident was the awkwardest of the awkward squad. (And the toughest. Being a Yorkshire grammar-school queer, he had to be.) Cook and Moore I feel only contempt for now, given their promise and privilege. (Peter Sellers at least earned his notoriety.) Miller, Dr 'Renaissance Man' of yore, has spoken of his own regrets - though his choices were harder

And Bennett? It's the Yorkshire, and the class-anger, that put the grit into what might otherwise have been a singularly limp individualist. I probably think class is a good thing - class, not inherited rank - but let that pass. Like Pepys's or Boswell's, Bennett's voice will endure, surely, as long as the English language is cherished. Which may not be all that long
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into a fascinating mind, 17 May 2010
This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Alan Bennet is a one-off; a deeply, genuinely shy man who somehow acquired a high public profile.

His book is one to dip into with pleasure and to return to again and again for its honesty, acute observation, humanity and humour.

As you read you can hear his distinctive voice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars more Bennett, 6 Nov 2013
By 
Mr. K. Appleby "KenA" (Perche, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Alan Bennett has enough fans out there, I'm pretty sure that my review won't influence any more of them.
However, if, by any chance you haven't read him yet, then please do - you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with this mans writing - in my opinion the ultimate laconic wordsmith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bennett at his nostalgic best, 15 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Writing Home (Kindle Edition)
If you are a Bennett fan or not then you can't help but marvel at this man and his use of language. Always guaranteed to make me smile and laugh in equal measure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alan Bennett books, 27 Feb 2013
By 
Joan Delamore "Mary J" (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Writing Home (Paperback)
Some time ago I read a previous book by Alan Bennett and enjoyed it. This is just as good and when reading it I can hear him talking in that dry Yorkshire voice. Very good
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