April Books 7) Untold Stories, by Alan Bennett

I don’t know Alan Bennett’s work all that well; I think the only other book of his I have read is the previous non-fiction collection, Writing Home, and I’ve seen a very few of his plays – The Madness of King George, The Insurance Man, a student production of Getting On, probably a couple of others; and really really enjoyed The Uncommon Reader. But it doesn’t really matter; these are memoirs of a shy English writer born in Leeds in the mid-1930s and looking back on his life from the years around the turn of the century. Bennett has become something of a national institution, though he would hate to be described as such, and writes here about why he turned down a knighthood in 1996 (“it didn’t suit me”).

The two most effective pieces in the book are the very long opening piece about his mother’s mental illness and the rest of his extended family, particularly her sisters (one of whom died after wandering out of a mental hospital; Bennett himself found her body), and the rather shorter closing piece about his own, so far successful, battle with bowel cancer, a legacy of his father’s side of the family. In between are long, amusing extracts from his diaries between 1996 and 2004, and various other pieces mostly about the arts in Britain and his own work which didn’t appeal to me as much but are, as usual with Bennett, engaging and often bitterly funny. Recommended.

One thought on “April Books 7) Untold Stories, by Alan Bennett

  1. I got around your speed, and figured I’d skimmed rather than reading properly … then got all three questions right.
    Sadly, most of my reading time these days comes on 30 minute train trips, and only on the days I’m not riding to work, so the “book throughput” is pretty low overall.

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