Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Writing Home

Rate this book
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 introduction to his Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Madness of King George . A chronicle of one of the most important literary careers of the twentieth century, Writing Home is a classic history of a life in letters.

688 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Alan Bennett

227 books1,009 followers
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 an actor. Bennett's lugubrious yet expressive voice (which still bears a slight Leeds accent) and the sharp humour and evident humanity of his writing have made his readings of his own work (especially his autobiographical writing) very popular. His readings of the Winnie the Pooh stories are also widely enjoyed.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
562 (38%)
4 stars
609 (41%)
3 stars
227 (15%)
2 stars
42 (2%)
1 star
11 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews
Profile Image for J.C..
Author 6 books89 followers
November 13, 2021
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 endings to each section. I found myself wondering in advance what witty and relevant comment was awaiting me in the last line. I’ve said before that I love when the final note of a piece of writing sums it up (and takes one further), and Alan Bennett certainly knows how to do that with aplomb. Sometimes this requires a bit of familiarity, though, with the world of British film and theatre, and also some knowledge of the twentieth century in Britain. An illustration of this was at the end of a parody and satire of the fan élite of the Bloomsbury Set – the piece is entitled, “Say Cheese, Virginia!”. After dismissing Lady Ottoline as “Dusty (Springfield) to a T” (in case Ken Russell wants to make a film about Lady O) he points out that this role “isn’t one for Glenda”. You need to have some knowledge of Glenda Jackson (a Labour politician as well as an unpretentious and gritty actress) in order to appreciate this sort of comment.
The book is enhanced by black and white photographs, including some of Miss Shepherd and her van. “The Lady in the Van” is in this book and I loved it. I’ve reviewed it separately. Ian commented on Alan Bennett’s decency in having allowed this disreputable old lady to live in his drive in her smelly old van for fifteen years. AB prefaces this series of diary extracts with this quotation from William Hazlitt (“On the Knowledge of Character”):
“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.”
Sorry, Mr Bennett, I’m not having that. It was a kind thing that you did.
Lots of this book is self-deprecating, including many embarrassing moments, one of which, at Magdalen College Oxford, rivalling those in “Lucky Jim”. Alan Bennet mercilessly analyses his own motives and reactions, and his outspoken criticism always includes himself as onlooker or participant. The diary entries (1980 to 1995) are mordant. He hated former Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher, and gives cause, particularly the mine closures and the Falkands War. However, the diaries also contain poignant references to his mother, who is in a care home. I am still wondering whether caring for Miss Shepherd went a small way towards easing the inescapable guilt of having ‘put away’ his own mother. Visiting his father’s grave, he says there are things he would like to send him, but not his mother’s address.
There are portraits of many well-known figures from the British stage, and I think he seems fondest of Sir John Gielgud; although for me the far more interesting portrait was George III as played by Nigel Hawthorne (from the section entitled, “Prefaces to Plays”. The part I liked least was “Books and Writers” , where he reviews other people’s biographies of famous writers, because I don’t read biography. I’d rather accept someone’s writing at face value. I found myself unable to complete the section on Philip Larkin (who must have been a very objectionable character) until, by one of those happy coincidences, I was reminded on GR of a quotation I myself had selected, from Hašek, that an educated person should be able to read anything. (Thanks to Théodore for that!). So back I went to Philip Larkin and was edified to discover, as did Bennett, that the poems “emerge unscathed, just as," he says, “with Auden and Hardy, who have taken a similar biographical battering."
I think I’ll just end on a sycophantic note worthy of the great man’s cynical attention; one of the photographs shows him as a child sitting on some steps at Filey in Yorkshire. Just think! I have sat on those very same steps . . . .
Profile Image for Boadicea.
186 reviews56 followers
June 5, 2020
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 Cook and Dudley Moore, who ascended the heights of film stardom together with notoriety.
From writing jokes and skits in revues, he then started writing plays and films with an emphasis, not only on comedy but also historical events, with considerable success.( The Madness of King George.) Then there's also his acting and reading work together with several books he has written.
Meanwhile, he also contributed reviews to the London Review of Books as well as other publications.

The book, in its 1st edition, is a collection of some essays, reviews, obituaries (Russell Harty), diary entries from 1980-1990, and the superb short story which was subsequently adapted for stage and screen, "The Lady In The Van".

What it shows is a man whose caring, observant nature allows him to observe and discuss eccentricity, dementia, terminal illness and depression without difficulty, allowing both the comedy as well as the tragedy of the situation to play out. His insight and portrayal of the ageing female character is impressive, particularly the eccentric spinster and I look forward to the proposed reshoots of his Talking Heads series with interest.

Meanwhile, there's a good critique of Philip Larkin's biography by Andrew Motion in which his abundant sympathy remains with the biographer whilst he wrinkles his figurative nose at the bigoted narcissist of a poet!

Having lauded his abilities, I felt the book was quite set in its era with many of the diary entries featuring initials so the gossip featured in his diary entries largely appeared irrelevant; the political concerns of national importance only so would require a knowledge of UK national politics in the 1980s; and there was minimal discussion of his University days with slightly more on his childhood. For instance, the only reason that I know he has a brother is because of the photographs!

It's an uneven book, a hotch-potch amalgam which, whilst it demonstrates the impressive accomplishments of the author, leaves one feeling strangely unfulfilled.
I appreciate that a subsequent edition has been published according to the publisher's blurb but I don't feel committed to researching the changes.

Rather, it's time to enjoy his plays, videos specifically, the old 'Talking Heads' monologues (all on YouTube) which encapsulates his phenomenal abilities in reproducing dialogue redolent of Northern England working and middle classes in the mid to late 20th century and his films. He's also very funny: whilst there is satire, mostly there's much social commentary which is not critical but one is left with the feeling of being involved in a credible conversation with everyday characters who all enjoy a good laugh!

And then there's his films: "A Private Function" was the first one I can remember seeing which is hilarious as well as the aforementioned "The Madness of King George " and many more.

I'll keep this copy, it's been around for a couple of decades but I'm sure there's a better book around, demonstrating his considerable abilities in diverse areas over the last 60 years.
Profile Image for Pradnya K..
279 reviews98 followers
February 10, 2020
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 Alan Bennett has some density and quality which makes it not everyone's cup of tea. Not all can be happy reading not-so-dramatic daily journals of a writer. To me, it was his take on the normal life, the complex mechanism of his seeing the ordinary things the way he does, was the best part of it. Who could have thought that the motion picture, The lady in the van, first made entry in the journal and then the book? Or the way the author thinks of about the judiciary system he thinks when a young lady was sentenced lifetime imprisonment?

With collections and journals made into books, there's another advantage. You get to read on diverse subjects, you get to know all the people the author meets. Especially if the author is in business where he hangs around with lot of writers, poets, actors, it's definitely knowing a lot of people. And Bennett being a writer, he introduces them in his unique style which makes you feel like peeping inside their lives through closely. For a reader like me, who needed to look for many names online as I didn't know of them, then knowing their works and then the author's introduction was unlike anything I did before. At times, I listened to his recording of The house at the Pooh corner (Winnie-the-Pooh), I read wiki on Auden, Larkin, Isherwood, Ervin Goffman
and quite a few of others, I added a few titles to my TBR related to/buy the people he mentions. There was a lot to know. Books like these don't make much sense if you lack references related to writeup and I'm happy that I did.
Then there's a few plays and programs the author writes about and pondering on them he let's us through his mind. About his famous play, 'Forty years on', he writes in his journal -

Forty years on is to be produced at Chichester in May, sixteen years after it was first done. I am nervous about this. When I have written something, I'd quite like to have it adopted, put in someone else's name, and thus have none of the responsibility of parentage or run the risk that at sixteen one's offspring doesn't turn out as well as he had hoped.

Now, I wish I should have kept more notes rather than just enjoying the flow, I should have done more highlights while reading that I could go back and enjoy the best part.
The book has plenty of things to lure a reader buy above everything I liked the person who opened his mind, wide enough and welcomed me to wander about freely and humbly. He is unsure many times, conflicted and bothered a lot of time about the people and the ways of world, who's self-conscious and lets all his unsure thoughts out in public. Being a person of that kind, it's not an easy task. But when one risks to be so vulnerable, he also is loved a lot, more so when he has ways with words.
Profile Image for John Anthony.
764 reviews97 followers
July 9, 2015
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 Lady in the Van) who lived in his drive for over 20 years, make this a rich bill of fare.

One to savour rather than rush. Funny, sad, sharp and even waspish at times but always human.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,178 followers
July 14, 2008
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.

Profile Image for [ J o ].
1,950 reviews435 followers
September 13, 2022
A.B. probably won't like that I've shelved this under 'literary', but that's what it is, sometimes.

1980 to 1995, Bennett's thoughts on his work, some tidbits of life and musings on how the world works slide next to reviews of books, prefaces to his own works and speeches he has made on close friends at their funerals to bible societies.

I currently have covid brain, my fingers knowing how to spell but deciding against it anyway. It is the first book I've read for several months-over half a year-a year that saw me almost nothing but sad. Very, very sad.

And thus, after experiencing something that stopped the sadness and brought joy and laughter back again, I turned to A.B. for more joy and laughter, and he has not disappointed.

Each of his non-fiction works (compendiums of diaries, speeches, reviews, musings) were added to my eBay basket and bought without second thought. They arrived one after the other and I held my hand over the first chronologically, 'Writing Home', tentatively wondering if I was ready to read again.

Turns out I was and fuck me if I haven't missed it.
Profile Image for Katie.
305 reviews6 followers
November 14, 2010
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. Some of my favorites were about the great Shakespearean actor John Gielgud.

Of course, the best, most delightful stories/diary entries are about Miss Shepherd (aka "The Lady in the Van"). She was his closest neighbor for over 20 years: she lived in her van, which was parked in his driveway! (He let Miss Shepherd park her van there so the police would stop harassing her.) To say that she was a colorful person seems to be a bit of an understatement. I don't know how he did it.

Anyway, I think Jon could count this as a book he read too because every time I picked it up I had to read lots of passages to him.

Now I am in the mood to read it again.

Profile Image for Ryan.
1,067 reviews35 followers
May 25, 2022
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.
6 reviews2 followers
January 9, 2011
Excellent for those who already like Bennett. Not ideal as an introduction to him.
371 reviews1 follower
March 25, 2016
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 were more telling, funnier and more thought provoking than the movie. I think this shows that good writing trumps pictures.
Profile Image for Polly Sands.
97 reviews1 follower
February 27, 2018
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 always introduces me to new and wonderful people, books and cultural happenings...
Profile Image for Fiona.
843 reviews448 followers
December 16, 2012
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).
Profile Image for Stephen Varcoe.
41 reviews5 followers
May 25, 2022
I needed this my 2nd reading.
As a resolutely middle class English liberal, Bennett helps me gird my loins and face a world that has become / remains hostile to the concept of freedom, tolerance & human kindness.
He should be knighted but he keeps turning them down.
I can say I love England because of people like Alan Bennett but just like him I can’t say that I love my country. I don’t know what that means either.

Profile Image for Ilse Wouters.
229 reviews6 followers
May 10, 2020
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 I also enjoy his "northerness" a lot.
Profile Image for Patrick Cook.
212 reviews6 followers
February 6, 2017
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's harder to understand how it happened to Alan Bennett.

Reading such a large selection of Bennett's writings, one is struck by the fact there's nothing safe or cosy about him. That's largely a good thing. Whatever its virtues, cosiness implies a certain level of complacency, and there's nothing complacent about Bennett.

Other than the lack of cosiness, what is most notable in reading this book is Bennett's vast range. There are his famous diaries of daily scenes, mostly written for the The London Review of Books , reflections on his early life and on his career, and addresses to the Prayer Book Society. There is also 'The Lady in the Van', one of Bennett's minor masterpieces (recently adapted into a film starring Maggie Smith). Amidst all of this and some compendia of theatrical gossip (not all of it equally interesting, it must be said) are signs of a different Bennett, who might have become a major literary critic had he not instead become a major playwright. There is a sensitive piece on Auden's love life (foreshadowing The Habit of Art), and two perceptive essays on Larkin. More surprisingly still, there is a review of a work by Erving Goffman, which shows how much sociology Bennett picked when writing his pieces.

Profile Image for Jo.
230 reviews22 followers
January 4, 2016
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 pronounced. At times, some of his comments & experiences seemed very dated. Many of the featured eulogies - & writings - referred to people I knew almost nothing about and, upon researching them further, found little more to enjoy in them. FAR too many references to fucking Kafka. But, throughout the entire book there was a consistent supply of wise, funny & bittersweet anecdotes & observations. Which is what Bennett does best. He also reminds me of home, which is pretty special. A national treasure? I would say so.
Profile Image for Bob.
825 reviews70 followers
December 27, 2007
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 hold the line at the spelling "Boyz".
One of the most moving and fascinating segments is a description of a more or less insane old woman who had nowhere to live but a small van type of automobile (that didn't actually run) whom Bennett, through a combination of charity and inertia that I bet we can all recognize, allowed to park her vehicle and live in it in his tiny London front garden for the last 15 years of her life.
Profile Image for Chris.
164 reviews6 followers
July 10, 2009
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 writing, the development of characters and also just the day-to-day routine. I enjoy books about Britain so the references to 1960s and 1970s British celebrities don't faze me, but it might to most American readers.

However, it seems a certain understanding of his works have to be reached to truly appreciate this glimpse inside them. It's an enjoyable read, but only to a point.
251 reviews8 followers
December 10, 2014
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 hard fan to give this a 5 I think.
Profile Image for Nicola Pierce.
Author 18 books77 followers
November 19, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Ryan.
87 reviews23 followers
May 2, 2016
Can't say I enjoyed this one anywhere near as much as the great man's work
Profile Image for Rosy.
283 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Margot Dower.
24 reviews
July 11, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Harvey Tordoff.
Author 5 books2 followers
December 22, 2014
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 matter demonstrates why he is such an accomplished writer. And why, although everything about him is unprepossessing, unassuming and unfashionable, he has achieved so much success.

As a fellow Yorkshireman a few years his junior I recognise his voice, his background, his values. When writing about his childhood I can see the streets of Leeds. I can see young Alan as a schoolboy, although that's not difficult, he has always looked like an overgrown schoolboy. His parents were working class with aspirations to be slightly better, and he writes of this socially inept family unit (his parents, himself and his brother) self-deprecatingly but with obvious affection. And yet for all his apparent openness he doesn't tell us much about his own feelings. As with his Talking Heads monologues (not part of this book) he writes obliquely about himself. We have to infer from what he does tell us, but in the end we know more than what his characters have told us. That is skilful writing.

He is always self-effacing. Although he likes to be present when his plays are in rehearsal, or his scripts are being filmed he would have us believe that he never plays a part, never knows what to do. These sections (Prefaces to Plays, and Filming and Rehearsing) provide a wonderful insight for those readers who have seen the finished products. But for the first time, I found myself being disappointed with Bennett. The section on Books and Writers is insightful and well-written, and yet I had the feeling that he was showing off. Name-dropping. Saying look how clever I am to know this about Kafka, Larkin, Gielgud. Perhaps the fault is mine. Perhaps the parental injunction not to make a fuss is stronger in me than in him.

Whatever, this is a small criticism. If you want a block-buster for the beach, this is not for you, but if you want to get up close and personal with one of Britain's best living writers there is a lot here to enjoy.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 28 books309 followers
July 16, 2021
This book was heavy going, but then I was kind of expecting it to be. That’s because it’s basically a collection of Alan Bennet’s short non-fiction covering everything from journals and autobiographical stuff to some of the reviews that he wrote for the London Review of Books.

With any other writer, working through a book like this would have been a chore. With Bennett, it was time consuming and pretty intensive, but he’s a cracking writer and his work is full of humour, and so that was enough to keep me interested, even if it did take a long old while to get there. And of course, it also helped that I was reading it as a bedtime book, which meant that I dipped in and out of it before going to bed.

One particular standout was when Bennett wrote about his mother bumping into T. S. Eliot and not being aware of who he was. Even after her son explained to her that Eliot had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, all she could say was that she wasn’t surprised because he had a nice coat.

Of course, there was also some stuff that I was less interested in, perhaps most notably the sections that were about people I’d never heard of or books that I’d never read. It’s hard to get too interested or invested in stuff like that, and yet they’re inevitable in any book like this. The same thing happened in Allen Ginsberg’s Collected Letters, for example.

But I enjoyed myself for the most part, and I’m still glad that I took on this behemoth because there was a lot to like about it. As to whether I’d recommend it or not, that’s a different story entirely and really depends upon how much of a Bennett fan you are.

If you’re a completionist leader like I am, you’re going to have to get to this one sooner or later, and at least it’s rewarding. In fact, I was pretty happy when I reached the end because it felt like an accomplishment, and I suppose it was.

Don’t go in to this book expecting an easy read, because that’s just not going to happen. The good news is that it’ll make you think, and you’ll also feel as though you’ve learned a bunch of stuff by the time you’ve finished it. So definitely worth reading.
Profile Image for Lindz.
389 reviews30 followers
November 29, 2015
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. Not the social change that went on but, a more English, 'Oh well, must get on shall we.' From the reaction to John Lennon's death, growing up in Leeds, rehearsing with Gielgud, friends funerals, or having a 'Lady in the Van' living in his drive way.

This is an exercise in brilliant writing. Some of the essays are hit and miss. I got the feeling that AB saw writing as a vocation, but he is a true craftsman, and should be celebrated as he is.

340 reviews2 followers
September 20, 2016
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 Maggie Thatcher, the peri and post Thatcher era and the power of the working class left wing. It gave me a new, fresh perspective of the struggles between the classes in the UK over this period of time and seemed rather too relevant reading it not. Enjoyable read. One most definitely doesn't have to be an established fan of Alan Bennett prior to reading this book.
Profile Image for Alan Hughes.
381 reviews12 followers
August 7, 2012
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 introduction to his Oscar-nominated screenplay for "The Madness of King George," A chronicle of one of the most important literary careers of the twentieth century, Writing Home is a classic history of a life in letters.
Profile Image for Highlandtown.
322 reviews3 followers
March 29, 2020
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 could be educated in the same way by promiscuity."
So good.
Some of the pieces here are also in his other diaries and it’s pleasant to read them again.
Profile Image for Jeff Howells.
668 reviews3 followers
February 1, 2015
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. Looks like we have more in common than tank tops...
Displaying 1 - 30 of 83 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.