The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van 1

by Alan Bennett

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 21/10/2015

4/5 Rating 1 Reviews
RRP  $16.99 $14.25

Film tie in edition of Alan Bennett's classic memoir.

For fifteen years, the recalcitrant Miss Shepherd lived in her broken-down van on Alan Bennett's driveway in Camden. Deeply eccentric and stubborn to her bones, Miss Shepherd was not an easy tenant. Bennett, despite inviting her in the first place, was a reluctant landlord, never under the illusion that his impulse was purely charitable.

This account of those years was first published in 1989 in the London Review of Books. The play premiered in 1999, direct by Nicholas Hytner and starring Dame Maggie Smith, who reprise those roles in this new film adaptation. Shot on location at Bennett's house, Alex Jennings plays the author, alongside household names including James Corden, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent and Dominic Cooper.
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Profile Books Limited
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic, as have many of his works for the stage.

One of the National Theatre's most successful productions ever, The History Boys won numerous awards including Evening Standard and Critics' Circle awards for Best Play, an Olivier for the Best New Play and the South Bank Award.

His collection of prose Writing Home was a number one bestseller. Untold Stories won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography, 2006. Recent works of fiction are The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.

The film of The Lady in the Van starring Maggie Smith was released in 2015, and a new edition of his book of the same name a #1 bestseller for nine weeks.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

4 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • Very entertaining

    by on

    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 sherbet lemons. I have a stock of them in the house, but she insists I invest in yet more so that a perpetual supply of sherbet lemons may never be in doubt. ‘I’m on them now. I don’t want to have to go off them.’ I asked her if she would like a cup of coffee. ‘Well, I wouldn’t want you to go to all that trouble. I’ll just have half a cup.’”

    It was after her death that Bennett finally ventured inside the van: “…I realised I had to grit my teeth (or hold my nose) and go through Miss Shepherd’s possessions.
    To do the job properly would have required a team of archaeologists. Every surface was covered in layers of old clothes, frocks, blankets and accumulated papers, some of them undisturbed for years, and all lying under a crust of ancient talcum powder. Sprinkled impartially over wet slippers, used incontinence pads and half-eaten tins of baked beans, it was of a virulence that supplemented rather than obliterated the distinctive odour of the van. The narrow aisle between the two banks of seats where Miss Shepherd had knelt, prayed and slept was trodden six inches deep in sodden debris, on which lay a top dressing of old food, Mr Kipling cakes, wrinkled apples, rotten oranges and everywhere batteries – batteries loose, batteries in packets, batteries that had split and oozed black gum on to the prehistoric sponge cakes and ubiquitous sherbet lemons that they lay among”

    The cover of this edition shows Maggie Smith as she portrayed Miss Shepherd in the movie of the same title, and also has a postscript written in 1994. Very entertaining.