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A Life Like Other People's

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  639 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
Alan Bennett's A Life Like Other People's is a poignant family memoir offering a portrait of his parents' marriage and recalling his Leeds childhood, Christmases with Grandma Peel, and the lives, loves and deaths of his unforgettable aunties Kathleen and Myra. Bennett's powerful account of his mother's descent into depression and later dementia comes hand in hand with the ...more
Hardcover, 242 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Faber & Faber (first published 2009)
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Midwife on Call by Agnes LightGetting Over It by Anna MaxtedThe Wedding Officer by Anthony CapellaTelling Liddy by Anne FineAcross the Mersey by Annie Groves
Global Books Import
64th out of 81 books — 1 voter
The Lady In The Van by Alan BennettThe Uncommon Reader by Alan BennettHabeas Corpus by Alan BennettKafka's Dick by Alan BennettThe Complete Beyond the Fringe by Alan Bennett
Best of Alan Bennett
45th out of 100 books — 2 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,177)
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Mar 18, 2013 ·Karen· rated it really liked it
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
Mar 03, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing
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
May 10, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 03, 2011 Mara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2011 Kate rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 21, 2014 Domhnall rated it it was amazing
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
Ruby Noise
Aug 07, 2016 Ruby Noise rated it did not like it
I liked Alan Bennett's work and had read a couple of his books before. Happily making my way through this book, hearing stories of his family and their 'foibles'. Then I hit page 110 and thought you know Alan I don't like you very much. Here is the paragraph that repelled me to him "It's a sign of my age that shoe shops seem nowadays to be staffed by sluts, indifferent, unhelpful and with none of that matronly dignity with which the selling of shoes and buying of clothes were in those days condu ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Peter rated it really liked it
I highly rate this book. Alan Bennett has such a command of the English language and such a good story teller the book held my interest from the first word it was tragic and very funny. Someone who was not familiar with the conditions during and after the war and of how people lived at the time would most probably miss some of the significance of the story.I would thnk that it also appeals more to the generation who remember the conditions which existed in the period he was writing about and the ...more
Nov 27, 2009 Ivan rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 23, 2014 GONZA rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
Jul 14, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2015 Richard rated it really liked it
Humble origins, as they say. But how many renowned writers could look back on them with such kindness - such pity, in the best sense of that corrupted term - and such absolute lack of acquired superiority? Alan Bennett writes of his parents' (and aunts') pinched and constrained and little-educated lives with his usual gimlet eye, and pulls off his usual monstrously difficult trick: writing that is wholly unsentimental, and yet wholly compassionate.

For some reason I think this won't feature in l
Douglas Adamson
As always with Alan Bennett this book is beautifully observed and full of dry and witty pathos. I can hear Bennett's flat Leeds's vowels and steady, comforting drone throughout the narrative.
It is an affectionate but sad histoire of his mother's decline into dementia and it cannot be described as an uplifting read, but dementia is not a fun subject. However, the engaging fluency of Bennett's prose carries you across the pages, and because I am from Yorkshire and familiar with many of the places
Richard Thompson
From the Goodreads blurb:

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.

Bennett has a pleasant, sometimes quirky, voice and this was a good read aloud. I found myself getting a little fussed at him when he got away from describing and indulged in analysis and philosophizing, but all in all an enjoyable read
Lauren Davis
Jul 16, 2015 Lauren Davis rated it it was amazing
What an amazing piece of writing. It's heartbreaking. It's without what Ferdinand Mount of the Spectator called, "a drop of splother", meaning no self-indulgence, no writerly artificial pyrotechnics, no sentimentality, just brave, searingly honest and often surprisingly hilarious writing. Alan Bennet has long been one of my favorite writers, this book also makes him one of my favorite humans. It's beyond memoir. It's art.
Fran Macilvey
Aug 21, 2014 Fran Macilvey rated it really liked it
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
Aug 25, 2016 Angelique rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-or-owned
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.
Jun 14, 2014 Dancingsocks rated it really liked it
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
May 08, 2014 Kathleen rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2012 Ruth rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Nice little memoir, tidy and meandering at the same time.
Sep 14, 2015 Alison added it
This short memoir of a book takes your breath away. It is so quiet and gentle that you forget you are reading about depression, suicide, coping with mental ill-health, in a time when all was not well understood by the medical profession of by society in general. He writes so well it is a charming story, but sad and tragic too. Alan Bennett is thought of as a witty, clever writer but really his people are so often struggling with sadness, loneliness, and a sense of not fitting in. And absolutely ...more
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
Jan 01, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
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
Mark Jones
May 13, 2014 Mark Jones rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2016 Carol rated it it was amazing
Bennett brilliance on every page. Can hear him talking, such natural rhythms and style in his prose. Very moving, but with his typical wit and eye for detail to which we can all relate, Bennett tells the story of his very ordinary family from Leeds and makes it extraordinary. The family is dogged by mental illness, but cemented together by love, respect and 'standards'. Very telling commentary too on our treatment of older people. Such close and astute observations. Bold and brave and honest.
Sep 11, 2014 Ali rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub-read
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.
Feb 09, 2011 Trawets rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2014 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2014
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.
Russell George
Jul 22, 2012 Russell George rated it liked it
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
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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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