The Lady in the Van – Alan Bennett

Having seen the film version in the cinema, I was interested to read Alan Bennett’s original writing about the eccentric woman who lived in her van on his driveway for 15 years, until her death.

This novella is taken from a selection of Bennett’s diary extracts during the time when Miss Shepherd was such a presence in his life. As you would expect from Bennett it is well written, descriptive and humorous. Despite naturally feeling frustrated with Miss Shepherd at times the compassion and affection he felt for her is evident, and there is a more than a touch of sadness when she has passed away. There are some elements of a social commentary in his writing, but in his usual witty way.

The only thing that lets this novella down is the fact that it is so short. I felt the film gave me more of a chance to get to know both Miss Shepherd and Bennett, and I would imagine the play did the same. However, it is still well worth a read.

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