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A Life Like Other People's

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  371 ratings  ·  81 reviews
A Life Like Other People's A memoir that offers a portrait of the author's parents' marriage and recalling his Leeds childhood, Christmases with Grandma Peel, and the lives, loves and deaths of his unforgettable aunties Kathleen and Myra. Full description
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Faber & Faber (first published 2009)
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World Book Night 2011 (UK)
24th out of 25 books — 29 voters
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Best of Alan Bennett
45th out of 46 books — 1 voter


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Community Reviews

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·Karen·
It's purely by chance that I read this back-to-back with Alan Sillitoe's Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, but the contrast between the two throws light on both. Here we have the flip side of Arthur Seaton. Alan Bennett grew up in Leeds, his working class pedigree is as spotless as Arthur Seaton's and he can't be more than five years younger. Yet his parents were shy, quiet, self-sufficient. Indeed this other Alan sees this as the key to understanding them, and himself too. He often mentions th ...more
Jane
I wasn't sure about this book at first. It began so quietly. But Alan Bennett's sentences are always pitch perfect. Soon I was totally caught. Bennett captures the heartbreak of ordinary family life perfectly. But maybe that gives the wrong impression. He captures the lived life of a family perfectly. It isn't all heartbreak, unless mortality strikes you as heartbreaking. It does me. The photographs are haunting.

One of my favorite sentences in A Life Like Other People's: Bennett's Aunt Myra has
...more
Elizabeth
This is a poignant and often quite painful memoir to read. It almost made me feel guilty for intruding.

Alan Bennett writes unflinchingly about the suicide of his grandfather, his mother's increasingly severe bouts of depression and mental health issues, his father's death and the tragic circumstances surrounding his Aunt's death - she walked out of hospital, suffering from dementia, and her body was found several days later by Bennett and his brother who were searching the grounds around the ho
...more
Kate
Bennett's voice is so calm and deliberate, so lacking in sentiment, that I was midway through this book before I realized it was annihilating me. Bennett kills with a thousand tiny cuts, all delivered via masterfully wrought sentences and a reflective, fluid structure that never stops in the abruptness of chapter breaks but rather shifts in and out of time and place.

There is little to nothing extraordinary about the lives Bennett plumbs. The brilliance and poignancy of this book lie in his power
...more
Domhnall
Alan Bennett writes about graveyards, the chapel in a crematorium, some wildlife, Leeds, a canal, hospitals, mental illness, its treatment and common attitudes to it, several aunties (not aunts), their unsatisfactory husbands, his grandfather a little, his father quite a lot and his mother mainly, their simple marriage, a mystery solved (why are there no wedding pictures?), her extended illnesses, his sudden death and her eventual death, perhaps too long delayed, care homes and those who work th ...more
Ivan
These days Alan Bennett is enjoying a well deserved renaissance with a new play The Habit of Art opening this month in London, plus the recent hit play/film The History Boys, novel The Uncommon Reader and Pen/Ackerley Prize winning non-fiction collection Untold Stories remain fresh in our minds. This new volume was lifted in it’s entirety from Untold Stories, and deservedly so. In A Life Like Other People’s the openly gay Bennett tells with great wit and measured sentimentality the story of his ...more
Mara
Alan Bennett in questo libro rende un omaggio ai suoi genitori, a suo padre Walt, a sua madre Lilian e alla loro unione decisamente fuori dall’ordinario. Ambedue provenivano da famiglie piccolo borghesi e nonostante costituissero una famiglia normale non erano mai riusciti ad essere uguali agli altri; in particolare i Bennett odiavano attirare l’attenzione e suscitare i commenti e curiosità nel prossimo, parenti compresi.
Dopo il pensionamento del padre decidono di trasferirsi in un piccolo pae
...more
Stan Bebbington
I like Alan Bennet's work and looked forward to reading this story of his own life or, perhaps more accurately, the lives of the people around him. But do not expect to be amused or uplifted by the characterisations. That is not the point . It is an honest appreciation of his life through his interaction with others, and it begins with the sadness of his mother's mental illness. She was depressive and could only be cured by electro-convulsive therapy. There were frequent remissions and in the en ...more
Russell George
An enjoyable read, this was one of the titles nominated for World Book Night last year, so no doubt quite a few copies will find themselves in charity shops (although I found this one in a telephone box used as a book exchange in Devon). The book centres around Bennett’s relationships with his parents, and his two aunties on his mother’s side. Its charm derives from its honesty, particularly the account of his mother’s depression, and later descent into dementia, though readers will find the cha ...more
GONZA
Un Bennett triste e riflessivo che racconta della sua infanzia e, soprattutto, dei suoi genitori, coloro i quali non gli hanno mai insegnato ad essere un "animale sociale", anche se non si direbbe considerata la sua carriera da drammaturgo.
Forse però è più comprensibile se consideriamo che Bennett ritrae le persone dal di fuori, come se fossero una specie differente, un antropologo del suo stesso popolo, se questa frase ha senso. Comunque le sue descrizioni delle zie e di suo padre soprattutto,
...more
Liz
Honest account of his closest relatives and of his relationship and judgements about them. At times it made me laugh out loud. I liked the way that Bennett reflected on what he was writing. Just when you think something like has he never heard of R D Laing, or was he not aware of the potential negative effects of ECT, he addresses the questions! While his father's values reminded me of my own father's values, his parents seem to me to be damaged in a peculiarly English way. I liked his aunties m ...more
Fran Macilvey
I find it incredibly hard to articulate what it is about this particular story that appeals to me.

Apart from Bennett's ease with words and his finely observed portraits of his parents, there is the appeal of a family which, on the face of it, might simply be described as ordinary and unassuming. Without an ounce of self pity or sentiment, Bennett lifts the lid on that supposed ordinariness, and reveals so many trials, difficulties, and the stoicism that both his parents, and the wider family, e
...more
Angelique
It was my first ever memoir/autobiography, and although I didn't know what to expect, I really enjoyed this! He makes his family come alive, and in some ways I thought of the similarities between his and my own family. Very quirky, lively, happy and sad. He speaks of his family, especially his parents, with much love. I recommend anyone who is looking for something different to give this a shot.
Dancingsocks
This has sat on my book shelf since 2011 when I said "I'll give it a go" to someone giving it away for World Book Night.

I don't really read autobiographies. I don't know much about Alan Bennett. I do like the history boys.

So yesterday I wanted a thin book to cart down to London on the train and picked this off the shelf. Its competition was a very thin book about global economics that a friend bought me in a bid to educate.

I'm so pleased I said yes on World Book Night. Such a beautiful little
...more
Kathleen
Alan Bennett writes about growing up in the 30's and 40's,in this heart-rendering memoir. His parents relationship, his aunties, his life flows with such clear, graphical precision, that it takes my breath away.
His parents wanted to fit in with cocktail parties, and other neighborhood events, but suffered from shyness, and lack of finesse with "modern matters" Alan's dad never wanted any "splother" or fuss that would call attention to an event of any sort. Alan's mother Lillian suffered from bo
...more
Ruth
Nice little memoir, tidy and meandering at the same time.
jazz-ee2
This is a World Book Night book, and is extracted from Bennett's collection "Untold stories".

I found this book on the OBCZ (book-swap) bookshelf at The Bean, Beeston, however it had not been registered so have no idea how it got there or who may have put it there. I love everything about World Book Night, and am dead chuffed that - as well as being a great fan of Alan Bennett's writing - through this book I can take part.

I love this comment made by Ann Macey on the World Book Night discussion fo
...more
Nancy
The title caught my eye at the library, so I picked this up. I wanted very much to give this just 2 stars, but had to grade up. The writing is peculiar to my American sensibilities, but still beautiful in many ways. Bennett doesn't try to explain anything that is unique to British life, but that was okay, too; I usually understood through context. If I cared enough I could always look it up.

I was concerned right off the bat when his mother is diagnosed with just plain old depression and it was s
...more
Mark Jones
This is, primarily, a book concerned with loss; be it the loss of ambitions and dreams, surrendered to routine and fear, or the loss of lives, fading away into history, forgotten by all. Alan creates an intimate tale around lives that would normally be described as dull and unremarkable, speaking of the tragedy that unites us, the fears and anxieties, the shyness and the loss. Though I may read this at a distance, as an observer, I can't avoid being drawn into this word of his.

"Unsolemn, hygieni
...more
Ali
I expected the book to be a good well written read. It was certainly well written but I'm not to sure about the 'good' part. This biography of Alan Bennett's parents and near family would make his shy and retiring parents squirm in embarrassment. Alan doesn't spare anyone, least of all himself from his critical review. There are moments of humour and some beautiful and witty observations but generally I found the book an easy but not particularly engaging read.
Trawets
Alan Bennet's parents never felt they were quite the same as other people, aspiring to a better more sociable life, but never quite achieving it. Alan Bennet's father was a reluctant butcher, his mother a timid woman, overshadowed by her brasher, more confident sisters.
His mother developed depression and paranoia after moving out of Leeds when her husband retired, spending regular spells in various hospitals, his father's continuing devotion led eventually to his death from a heart attack. Thoug
...more
Hannah
Being a world book night edition I knew very little about this prior to reading. An interesting portrait of family, especially the hidden elements of mental health. Mostly quite beautifully written, but it just tips a little too much into self indulgence on the authors part. Would have liked a little more balance with good/fun time memories to counteract all the melancholic wistfulness.
Iva
Alan Bennett's wit and widsom is firmly displayed in this fascinating study of family secrets, depression (his mother, aunt and grandfather), loyalty, class and aging. Family photographs enhance the story. Every character is indeed a character, and Bennett provides the reader with a reading experience filled with humor and pathos.
Tamara Bennett
a very English book so i didn't quite get some of the feel of the places discussed or all of the expressions used which was frustrating. but i did enjoy reading about the author's background - dealing with his eccentric family members including his more seriously ill parents; & how his family's problems were dealt with.
Ellen Herbert
Originally checked this out for my English husband, who proclaimed one of the best he has read. Intrigued, I picked it up and became lost in the unique blend of tragedy and humor that is native to Yorkshire and its inhabitants. A family life, remarkable in its un-remarkableness and so very proud of it. Sadness and quiet, secrets and simple happiness, yearnings and pauses - this history resonates and the depiction of aging is especially poignant as Bennett strives to know himself through his hist ...more
Saz Gee
The minute I started reading it, I was just there, in his world. Wonderful.
It's heart- breaking and full of studied beauty, this memoir to his family. Very sad but ultimately happy, funny, beautiful. A life.
Hugely enjoyable.
Miguel
Eis como um livro pode ser triste, tristíssimo, e ainda assim divertido, bem escrito, elegante. O dramaturgo Alan Bennett escreve uma memória da sua família, os pais, as tias, os avós, que é uma inevitável crónica da loucura, do envelhecimento, da morte.
Heffalumpi
I did enjoy this book but it was not quite what I expected. This was one of the books given away on World Book night to try and encourage more people to get into reading but to be honest it would not have ignited a burning passion to get back into reading, perhaps it was just the subject matter.

The book is all about his immediate family and the stories about him growing up amongst them, and then further on into his adult life. However there is always a dark undertone, his mothers debilitating de
...more
Ali
Life like other people's is a beautiful poignant memoir of Alan Bennett's parents, and his mother's battle with mental illness. He presents us with an honest but still sympathetic portrait of two simple honest people who are not always comfortable with the world around them. As his mother begins her long descent into mental illness, a long held family secret is revealed. Bennett remembers his Grandmother Peel, and his mothers sisters, the unforgettable Aunties Myra and Kathleen, and their unexpe ...more
Stacy
I didn't know this was another story about a family's struggle with depression. I just got it because I've read some essays by Alan Bennett and like his writing. And indeed this book is well written and insightful but I'm starting to be a little depressed myself about families struggling with various types of mental illness. Bennett relates the background of his family, the retirement and move of his parents to rural England which apparently sets off his mother's depression. I think writing thes ...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Alan Bennett is an English author and Tony Award-winning playwright. Bennett's first stage play, Forty Years On, was produced in 1968. Many television, stage and radio plays followed, along with screenplays, short stories, novellas, a large body of non-fictional prose and broadcasting, and many appearances as
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More about Alan Bennett...
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