I am back with another book review post. I read this book over the Christmas holidays but it is quite short so I read it once again just the other day and really wanted to share it here on the blog.
This book recounts snippets of the playwright Alan Bennett’s life from 1974 to 1989, during which time a homeless elderly woman named Miss Shepherd moved her bright yellow broken-down van into his driveway. Despite the fact that he wasn’t too keen on her staying for long, she ends up living there for 15 years.
In 2015, this book was adapted into a film of the same name starring Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd. Dame Maggie Smith was bloomin’ brilliant in the role and makes the peculiar Miss Shepherd likeable despite her sassiness. The real Alan Bennett even makes a cameo appearance in the film as himself, which is neat.
‘I ran into a snake this afternoon,’ Miss Shepherd said. ‘It was coming up Parkway. It was a long, grey snake – a boa constrictor, possibly. It looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I’ve a feeling it may have been heading for the van.’ I was relieved that on this occasion she didn’t demand that I ring the police, as she regularly did if anything out of the ordinary occurred. Perhaps this was too out of the ordinary (though it turned out the pet shop in Parkway had been broken into the previous night, so she may have seen a snake). She brought her mug over and I made her a drink, which she took back to the van. ‘I thought I’d better tell you,’ she said, ‘just to be on the safe side. I’ve had some close shaves with snakes.’
What I Loved Most
This is such a quirky and lovely story about how two people enter each other’s lives and become more important to one another than either thought possible, and Alan Bennett narrates it with such subtle, wry humourous observations.
What I Loved Least
I committed the bookworm no-no of seeing the movie before reading the book, but I absolutely loved the film, and was slightly disappointed that the book was not longer. Surely 15 years with Miss Shepherd living in the driveway resulted in more than 100 pages of stories.
One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.
Her grave in the Islington St Pancras Cemetary is scarcely less commodious than the narrow space she slept in the previous twenty years. It is unmarked, but I think as someone so reluctant to admit her name or divulge any information about herself, she would not have been displeased by that.
This is such a touching, delightful story, and one I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Plus, the film adaptation was amazing and worth seeing (and that says something given most bookworms are wary of adaptations).
What have you been reading lately???