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The Lady In The Van

3.7  ·  Rating details ·  7,208 Ratings  ·  536 Reviews
Life imitates art in The Lady in the Van, the story of the itinerant Miss Shepherd, who lived in a van in Alan Bennett's driveway from the early 1970s until her death in 1989. It is doubtful that Bennett could have made up the eccentric Miss Shepherd if he tried, but his poignant, funny but unsentimental account of their strange relationship is akin to his best fictional s ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 18th 1999 by Profile Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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Joey Woolfardis
I dislike rating plays because they are made to be watched, not read. So in reality the book of the play is probably a three star-it is interesting and funny, saddening, heartfelt, completely Bennettesque (of course) and the dialogue is just superb. But it can only really give you so much and there is very little description beyond the staging, which is fair enough, but not quite enough and the way Bennett writes it (I don't feel like I am worthy of calling him Alan) purposefully in that way mea ...more
Diane
Sep 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-charm, plays
I have a Goodreads shelf called British Charm, and one of my favorites from that group is Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, a delightful novella about what would happen if the Queen of England suddenly became an avid reader. My affection for that book inspires me to seek out anything Mr. Bennett writes.

Another Goodreader recommended The Lady in the Van, which is a bittersweet play based on a true story. In 1974, Bennett bumped into a woman named Miss Shepherd, who was delusional and living in
...more
Margitte
Enjoyed this short book for what it was. 99 pages. Well written. Great humor, a touch of compassion and sadness.

I wanted to read this book after The Uncommon Reader, which was often hilarious and really funny. The Lady In The Van did not disappoint.

Might write more later.
Bettie☯
Bettie's Books

Re-visit via film


Maggie Smith as Miss Mary Shepherd / Margaret Fairchild
Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett
Roger Allam as Rufus
Deborah Findlay as Pauline
Jim Broadbent as Underwood
Cecilia Noble as Miss Briscoe
Gwen Taylor as Mam
Frances de la Tour as Ursula Vaughan Williams
Nicholas Burns as Giles Perry
Pandora Colin as Mrs Perry
Al
Nov 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very charming and funny, quirky I suppose, but also terribly sad. The world is full of brilliant, weird, interesting , folk, but how badly we treat anyone who doesn't fit.
Reminds me of this cafe I go to. Theres always this old guy loitering outside. Soon as a customer leaves, the cafe owner waves the old guy in, and invites him to polish off any food left. Then the old guy salutes the owner, and leaves.
Talk about break my heart !!
Yeah, sad and funny. And probably full of social messages
Diana
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very funny true book about the dignity afforded an elderly citizen by Alan Bennett and his neighbours. Wonderfully written.
James Barker
I read this pamphlet of a book two days before seeing the film... and gosh the film is so much better, partly because of the divine Maggie Smith but also because the film ain't the book!

What really interested me in the film was the many allusions to Alan Bennett's sexuality. Has he come out in glorious fashion without me knowing? I thought it was one of those unspoken secrets that everybody knows- surely many of us had uncles when growing up who were... well... different.. the eternal bachelors
...more
Arwen
Nov 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: students of human nature
A very strange and oddly beautiful collection of essays about an eccentric homeless woman that the author allowed to live in her van on his property for 20-odd years. There's no sugar-coating, so you see their strange relationship develop over time with its odd intimacies and uncomfortableness, and a kind of affection. It really gives a face and a dignity to the "crazies" you see on the street everywhere in the world. A quick read and worth it.
Marianne
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Lady in the Van is a true story by British author, Alan Bennett. Essentially, it is an account of his interactions, over some twenty years, with the elderly Miss Shepherd, a homeless woman whose van was parked, at first in his street opposite his house, then later, in his front garden. Not until after she died, did Bennett learn very much at all about this secretive, opinionated, demanding old lady.

Entries often read thus: “April 1989. A staple of Miss S.’s shopping list these days is sherbe
...more
Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Although only 99 pages this short memoir packed a punch. Poignant, thought-provoking and really funny at times. My first ever read by Alan Bennett, I think I need to explore more of his work.
The kindness Alan Bennett showed towards Miss Shephard is admirable - allowing an eccentric homeless woman to live in her van in his driveway for 15 years. Amazing! This little book was a beautiful read.

A few days later I watched the film. It was brilliant. Maggie Smith was magnificent.
Christy
Nov 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
This book was the unlikely topic of conversation with a friend after a few drinks. Slightly dejected, he recounted his guilt over his grandmothers death and wondered if he had done enough as she spiralled into eccentricity. What brought on this rather morose reminiscence I asked, and he mentioned that he had recently seen the movie "The Lady in the Van", and she reminded him a little of his slightly-batty granny.

I looked it up when I got home, and seeing that it was based on a book, I promptly b
...more
umberto
Jan 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I think this biography is readable and interesting since Alan Bennett wrote from his direct experience on a lady tramp who lived in her old van. The van itself parked in his land for 15 years was her home till she passed away. I like his ways of expressing himself considerately and kindly towards an elderly lady who wasn't his relative at all. I think it's his compassion, character and wisdom that shaped all of his motive and action in helping her live comfortably as much as she could. It's funn ...more
Rachel
Miss Shepherd is one of those unforgettable quirky characters that manages to jump from the page as soon as you read about her. Bennett himself describes her as Dickensian and he is not wrong.
What helps is Bennett's to the point writing style that builds just enough description with wry social commentary and personal experience.
A recent movie adaptation has cast Maggie Smith as our Lady in the Van and although she does not meet the physical description of this Miss Shepherd, I look forward to
...more
Karen Mardahl
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I know someone who keeps raving about Alan Bennett's writing, so I thought I'd investigate with this little story. I enjoy this type of writing and Mr. B. seems to do it quite well - commenting on something that happens in real life and giving you pause for thought and reflection. Of course, not everyone has some very eccentric woman park her broken-down van in their driveway for 20 years! When the stench was mentioned, especially the part about certain unmentionables drying on the electric ring ...more
Faye
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, reviewed
Read: May 2017

As with Educating Rita which I read at roughly the same time as this, I saw the film version before I read the book - unusual for me. The film of The Lady in the Van was alright but dragged on a bit in my opinion. In contrast the book is very short; my copy was 101 pages long and I would have liked a little more detail in there. If I hadn't watched the film first I think I would have found it a bit too thin. It is set out in the form of Bennett's diary entries concerning Miss S. ov
...more
Saïdeh Pakravan
Feb 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Be honest with yourself at least, if not with me. Would you allow a filthy and foul-mouthed homeless woman of uncertain age to park her trailer in your yard and live there for decades until she dies? I wouldn't, I couldn't. But this is what Alan Bennett, the extraordinarily gifted and prolific British author and playwright put up with, with nary a harsh word, but with this memoir to show for it when the romance, such as it was, ended. Not a sentimental thought, not a feel-good message, not an em ...more
Ana Rînceanu
The second half of this book really tugged at my heart-strings.
J.
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This book takes the form of a collection of short diary entries. The book is only 100 pages and can easily be read in one sitting. Now a film and once a play it is a homage of sorts to a mentally vulnerable, homeless, cantankerous, eccentric woman called Miss Mary Shepherd who takes up residence in the author Alan Bennett's front drive in the 70's. Shabbily dressed with mismatched materials and stinking to high heaven Miss Shepherd disdains all help whilst languishing in squalor writing letters ...more
Breakaway Reviewers
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Descriptive, eccentric, brilliant writing!

Alan Bennett moved into Gloucester Crescent, Camden in 1969, hoping for a quiet and uncomplicated life so that he could get on with his writing, but then Miss Mary Shepherd somehow inveigled her way into his life. Her van became a permanent fixture on “the patio” just outside his study for the next fifteen years.

I know that I’m going to re-visit this book time and time again, in case I forget this lady, this very eccentric smelly lady and her vans; the
...more
Anita Pomerantz
The structure of this book is just . . .off.

Basically, there were four distinct sections. The first two had to do with The Lady in the Van. The initial section was entries from Alan Bennett's diary discussing the filming of The Lady in the Van. The next section was more of memoir recounting the time a homeless woman lived in her van on Bennett's property (the actual Lady in the Van story which apparently was made into a stage play and subsequently a movie).

Then, those two sections are followed
...more
Tony
Feb 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
THE LADY IN THE VAN. (1994). Alan Bennett. ****.
I have to presume that this is non-fiction. Bennett tells the story in the first person and takes on his role in the various events described. It’s the story of Miss Shepherd, a woman in her seventies that we would term a street person, with one important exception: she lives in a caravan (RV). After a series of incidents where she was forced to move her van from its several early parking places, she ends up parking in the garden of Bennett’s house
...more
Pat
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is really just an excerpt from Writing Home which I read many years ago. Since it has been published on it's own, someone in my book group has chosen it for discussion in December so I had another read. The writing is just wonderful and Miss Shepherd is a true eccentric character. She may well have had mental health issues, but she managed to get things organised to suit herself in a very effective way. I expect AB would have said he was just doing things for her to get her off his back but ...more
Helen
Proof is here, if proof were needed, that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. There's nowt so queer as folk, as they say.
Now, of course, I want to see the movie with one of my favourite actresses - Dame Maggie Smith.
Sara
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It just didn't sit well with me. The whole premise seems to be making fun of a person with a mental illness; a REAL person, because this is based on the author's real life. "Haha! I'm so smug and rich and I'm a writer! Let's all laugh at the crazy lady!" No, thanks.
Laura
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fascinating, humorous and yet also saddening read. It's highly thought provoking, emphasising how we treat people, such as Miss S, on the streets, who we assume are 'crazy' and 'odd'! A short read, definitely worth it!
Jane Wilson
Dec 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very short and not at all what I thought it would be. Alan Bennett is a decent human being if this account of an eccentric and oftentimes difficult old lady camping next out in his garden for decades is true.
ShoSho
I thought this was going to be a fun little nonfiction book but I was so wrong! This was really sad and depressing!
Caroline
Cute!
Dane Cobain
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This one’s interesting because it’s a memoir that Bennett wrote about a woman who literally lived in a broken-down van in his garden, and it basically conveys her personality perfectly. The problem is that she wasn’t very likeable.

Still, she’s definitely a character, which is why the book was turned into a movie with Maggie Smith. Sure, she used the “N-word”, called herself a proud Tory and sang the praises of Enoch Powell, but she’s dead now so eh.
Martha
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A bitter sweet; little read with the typical Bennet humour, but demonstrates the emotional hardships that life can bring, and the value of leading a hand to those in need, even if if that hand is dirty, and extending from a maggot infested yellow van.


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Goodreads Librari...: Kindle version/cover confusion 4 21 May 26, 2016 10:25AM  
Play Book Tag: The Lady in the Van/Bennett - 2 stars 3 14 Feb 05, 2016 04:16AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Book and play 2 21 Nov 30, 2015 06:00PM  
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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
...more
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“I know what’s required. It’s perfectly simple: Justice.” 5 likes
“Good nature, or what is often considered as such, is the most selfish of all virtues: it is nine times out of ten mere indolence of disposition. William Hazlitt, ‘On the Knowledge of Character’ (1822)” 5 likes
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