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Writing Home

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,385 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Bringing together the hilarious, revealing, and lucidly intelligent writing of one of England's best known literary figures, Writing Home includes the journalism, book and theater reviews, and diaries of Alan Bennett, as well as "The Lady in the Van," his unforgettable account of Miss Shepherd, a London eccentric who lived in a van in Bennett's garden for more than twenty ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published May 2nd 2003 by Picador (first published January 1st 1994)
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 ·  1,385 ratings  ·  77 reviews

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Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
An individual of considerable talents.

Hailing from Yorkshire with a blue collar background, Alan Bennett's memoir of sorts shows how he arrived at Oxford on a scholarship to study History, with a particular focus on Richard II, ie 14th century England.
Whilst he was there, he teamed up with the best of the Oxford University Drama Society, such stellar cast members of "Beyond the Fringe" of which he is the sole survivor: Jonathan Miller, the neurologist who became a theatre director; also Peter Co
Pradnya K.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Like I said in my last update, it's coming to the end and I'm feeling sad.

I started it not expecting much, knowing it's a huge and compact book and had to be read one session/essay/writeup at a time.What I didn't expect was insights about the particular time, the authors and plays and BBC. I took considerable time to finish it. There were months I didn't read read a word from this book and preferred the easier fiction. Because this one needed a good focus to enjoy it properly. The writing of Al
John Anthony
Jun 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A.B.'s superb powers of observation, linked with an ability to translate his thoughts into a universal language of understanding which then makes them ours, is awe inspiring. The book covers a lot of ground - childhood to the date of publication (1994) and may be the closest we get to an autobiography from him.His plays, on and off screen, extracts from his diaries and pen portraits, which include his parents, friend Russell Harty, John Gielgud, Larkin and the irrepressible Miss Shepherd (The La ...more
Jun 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
First volume of semi-autobiography, augmented by diaries and excerpts from other writings. Lots about the Lady in the Van (Miss Shepherd), prefaces and background to many of his plays, including a good essay about Kafka and quite a few obituaries/funeral tributes.

Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I think I took two years to read this book--and notice, I still gave it four stars. The book is written in sections, a little of this (Bennett's diary entries) and a little of that (Bennett's book reviews), so you can come and go as you please.

Bennett, a British writer and playwright (think The Madness of King George and British TV shows and plays you've probably never heard of---well, at least I hadn't), has wonderful, spot-on observations about life and great stories about the theater world. S
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a lovely read. I had many chuckles and smiles while reading this. It also gives a history of his time in the arts from about the mid 1960s to now. I did not recognize many of the names but those familiar with British theater would enjoy this book even more than I.
I am a reader who likes sentences. The way he can place a word in a sentence and make the incident come to life or bring a smile I found delightful.
I enjoyed the movie, THE LADY IN THE VAN. His diary excerpts I thought we
Polly Sands
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed my Bennett fix. I admittedly skipped some of the book reviews at the end, but loved the diary entries, especially when he is working on projects and the fledgling Lady in the Van sections.
The only thing I will say is that my version from a charity shop is slightly outdated, some of the language used in referring to people with disabilities and minority ethnic backgrounds are a bit old fashioned, not quite offensive, but a little jarring.
Apart from that, the writing is a delight and he
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
24th February.

Supper at Pat Heald’s with Thora Hird, who tells stories of her childhood in Morecambe, where her father was the manager of the Winter Gardens.

Morecambe had one prostitute, Nellie Hodge, who used to take her clients down the ginnel at the back of the Hird’s house, thus providing Thora with a fund of anecdote.

CLIENT: Nay, put a bit of feeling into it, Nellie.

NELLIE: I can’t while I’m eating my fish and two.
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Excellent for those who already like Bennett. Not ideal as an introduction to him.
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
My favourite AB compilation because it contains the wonderful Lady in a Van which I've had the unadulterated pleasure of seeing twice on stage (Theatre by the Lake, Keswick). ...more
Ilse Wouters
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-english
So, I finally read the book Andrew, my nowadays husband´s house mate back in Bradford from ´93 to ´96, gave me as a birthday present once.
Some parts are more enjoyable than others, and it´s even more accurate to say that some parts are dated, while others might well be "impenetrable" for people too young and/or unfamiliar with UK culture & politics of the ´80s and before. But I do like the way Alan Bennett uses humour (and more particularly irony) to describe situations and human behaviour, and
Patrick Cook
Jan 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I picked up this book in used book stall in a church in Suburban Cambridge, which feels somehow indicative of Bennett's place in contemporary imagination. The British do something curious to their national literary icons, or at least to a subsection of them: they domesticate them, viewing them as cosy and about as controversial as a mug of tea with chocolate biscuits. With Betjeman one can understand how this happened: he played along with this image, although rarely without a sense of irony. It ...more
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
A tricky one to rate, as it's a collection of his writings. My enjoyment of different sections was quite varied. His early diaries were fascinating, entertaining, bittersweet & very "northern". It's no great surprise that I liked these. 'The Lady in the Van' is worthy of five stars-fantastic. His 'Prefaces to Plays' and 'Filming and Rehearsing' went on for nearly 150 pages. I think these could have been cut by at least 50%. Bennett is 81 years old & as I read the book, our gap in age became more ...more
Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was ok
This feels like the textbook for the advanced Alan Bennett class. However, I haven't taken the intermediate and it's a prerequisite.

I'm past the beginner stage, at least, about Bennett: part of the groundbreaking British sketch comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe, cast member of various Amnesty International shows in the 1970s, one of Britain's great playwrights and writer of several films, most notably The Madness of King George and A Private Function.

He offers invaluable insight into the craft of
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: own-book
I actually really like Alan Bennett but this was just too much of everything, I dare say that the publishers don't expect the reader to sit and read the book from cover to cover but rather to dip into it when they feel like it but I'm a bit of a masochist like that and once I've started a book I will finish it come hell or high water. I really enjoyed the Lady in the Van and there are a lot of interesting little anecdotes about various rich and famous people but you would have to be a real die h ...more
Nicola Pierce
Oct 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
As it is a collection of different types of writings it is only natural to admit that I enjoyed some parts much more than others. However, this is the first time that I've read AB and am definitely interested in reading more by him. As a reader I enjoyed both his sense of humour and sense of justice and, as a writer, I thoroughly appreciated his honesty. ...more
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Can't say I enjoyed this one anywhere near as much as the great man's work ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: england
Well, I didn't know that this book existed until it fell into my hands after I mentioned that I wouldn't mind reading one of the dialogues for Alan Bennett's "Talking Heads". The Talking Heads dialogues aren’t there anyway and I still don't know whether the lady in “Nights in the Garden of Spain” said “love” or “life” at a crucial stage in her journey to realisation, but, gosh, once I’d started “Writing Home” I was hooked on Bennett’s incisive, down-to-earth writing, and especially his pithy end ...more
I enjoyed this so much as an occasional read (between books) that I'm tempted to simply start over. Not every segment is my cup of tea, and I might have been a tiny bit more selective as an editor, but this is good writing even (almost) for its own sake. Interesting, yes, nostalgic and stimulating in places for me as a long-ago drama student and lifelong theater fan, but above all that, just a really good read. ...more
Margot Dower
Jul 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Diaries were excellent, everything else was totally lost on me. But his voice is really, really lovely. Especially loved Miss Shepherd, who made this entire brick worth buying and struggling through.
Harvey Tordoff
Dec 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Over the years I have read a lot of Alan Bennett, seen his stage plays, watched his TV dramas and monologues, so I guess that makes me a fan. I suspect that's not something the Leeds schoolboy would have aspired to, having fans. You have to make a bit of a fuss to get noticed and have fans, and his Mam and Dad would have been mortified by that idea.

This book is a compilation, or a bit of an assortment, of Bennett's work. Some of it was familiar to me, some was new, but the wide range of subject
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Hilariously funny and brilliant collection of essays, literary criticism, diary excerpts and other short writing from a British comedian and playwright that I really ought to have known by name, but did not despite having a heard of a number of plays and films which he wrote. Most recently, The History Boys ran on Broadway for half of 2006 to considerable acclaim, forcing me [though I did not see it] it to reconsider my rule that no play called anything Boys is worth seeing - perhaps I can still ...more
The lessen I have learnt from this collection, is that I have not read enough, not by far. I dipped in and out of a brain who is comfortable with Kafka, Larkin, Auden, Proust, and other intelligent poets and writers. But this is not a stuffy intellectual brain, but a thoughtful, patient, kind, modest brain, who can express himself in a colourful aware of sentences.

Through this collection of essay's, dairies, prefaces and general musings you see a very different view of the 60's, 70's and 80's.
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: life-stories
Enjoyable. I've read 'The Lady in the Van' and it gave me an interest into Alan Bennett and and quite who he was. After his writing about himself, his upbringing, his musing and diary I'd still like to read more. I hadn't seen a great deal of his work (other than, 'The Madness of King George') so just read his diary as that of a man living through the twentieth century born and brought up in Leeds and being educated at Oxford. I found his diary particularly interesting as he passed comment on Ma ...more
Alan Hughes
Jul 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction
Bringing together the hilarious, revealing, and lucidly intelligent writing of one of England' s best known literary figures, "Writing Home" includes the journalism, book and theater reviews, and diaries of Alan Bennett, as well as " The Lady in the Van, " his unforgettable account of Miss Shepherd, a London eccentric who lived in a van in Bennett' s garden for more than twenty years. This revised and updated edition includes new material from the author, including more recent diaries and his in ...more
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: alan-bennett
Alan Bennett seems to see the whole of people and things. Sir John Gielgud, some writers unknown to me, 1980s and 1990s England, coming home to beans on toast.
His writing is comforting and exciting.
"The tales of Kallman pere, on the other hand, suggest a cross between Phil Silvers and S.Z. ('Cuddles') Szakall."
"Cameramen in particular are educated like this, men of the world who have odd pockets of understanding and experience gleaned from the films they have worked on. I imagine someone coul
Jeff Howells
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great rag tag collection of Alan Bennett's prose writings (diaries, intros to plays, reviews) I remember that this book was immensely popular when it was first published so I can't believe it's taken me so long to get around to reading it. The only disappointing thing about reading it is that when Bennett reviewed Philip Larkin's biography you discover that he didn't particularly like Larkin as a person. That aside, every page has something that makes me laugh (out loud) or nod in agreement. L ...more
Derek Bridge
The first three sections of this collection are a delight: reminiscences, funeral orations and diary entries, written in Bennet's wry, warm and very English tone. The alienation of class through education is especially poignant.

The later sections (prefaces to plays, and writing of a more literary nature) have occasional pleasures, but, perhaps because the subjects are more distant from one's own personal experiences, are sometimes harder to like.
David Highton
A wide portfolio of pieces from Alan Bennett - all wrriten with wry humour in his erudite and articulate way. This is a large collection - nearly 700 pages - and with the need to concentrate a little to get the best out of his writing, I read it over 4 weeks, interspersed with other books. He leaves me feeling not nearly widely enough read, too much time on thrillers and not enough on serious books!
Ann D
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I love Alan Bennett, but I didn't finish this book of diary entries, reviews, and essays. I just don't know enough about the people or events he is writing about to make it meaningful to me. I still gave it 3 stars because I think it would be wonderful for someone else - maybe a British person of a certain age.

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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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