The Lady in the Van: Alan Bennett

Happy New Year! Treat yourself to a book review.

There’s massive pressure with this one. The friend of mine who lent me this book is absolutely in love with it and I fear that anything negative may send her after me!

The Lady in the Van was first published in 1989, and was later made into a stage play and the 2015 film starring Maggie Smith. It’s written by Alan Bennett, the author and playwright behind Beyond the Fringe, Talking Heads and The History Boys. Believe it or not, as a history student that applied to Oxbridge I have never actually seen The History Boys, but I am always being told that it is a must-see. I also recieved his Four Stories book for Christmas so I will probably be familiarising myself more with his work in the coming months.

The Lady in the Van is based upon a true story. It is written from Alan Bennett’s diary entries that catalogued his interactions with Miss Shepherd, the lady in the van, as she came to live in his driveway for the last 15 years of her life. This at first sounds like an endearing little story about a little old lady, but it is not that simple. Miss Shepherd proves to be a cantankerous woman who at times makes Bennett’s life hell.

Miss Shepherd must be read about to be believed. She comes with absolutely no back-story, her previous life is not revealed until the end, and so her eccentricity is more striking. She provides the basis of almost a social commentary, as the way in which Bennett describes the environment around her and the way in which people interact with her helps to recreate the atmosphere of the 1970s and 80s through her person. This book is very cathartic; you will be left feeling oddly content, but it may break your heart in the process. It is a great gift for a family member, as it is a neat little book that can be breezed through in a spare hour. There is a sort of magic in reading a true story and the fact that Miss Shepherd does, I say, make this book.


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