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smut – alan bennett

Smut

This was a selection for our E17 Book Club. We had got onto the subject of Alan Bennett, and many of us hadn’t read andy of his books, and I don’t think anyone at all had read this, which came out last year.
Now, I had to miss out on the meeting where we reviewed this book, so I am unsure of what everyone else made of it…perhaps I will ask someone for a summary some time.
This book is made up of two short stories – ‘Two Unseemly Stories’ as it is sub-titled. Which sounds fun and illicit!
“The Greening of Mrs Donaldson” is the first offering and is about widowed Mrs Donaldson, who is exploring life after the recent death of her husband.  We meet her as she has taken up a new role, acting out various patients and their pathological conditions (or their companions) for groups of medical students at the local hospital.  She also decides to take on a young couple as lodgers – not realising quite how horizon-expanding this will actually prove to be.
“The Shielding of Mrs Forbes” comes next, and tells of an intricate web of lies surrounding Mrs Forbes and her husband. Slowly picking apart their marriage, lives and the lives of their family and the people around them.
I have to admit, until I just looked the books up, I had completely forgotten what the second story was about.  It seemed very humdrum – just another tale of a boring suburban marriage, and what the people in it would do to make life seem worth living.
The first story was something a little different though – I really enjoyed reading about Mrs Donaldson.  I loved the idea that she was so great at playing patients with different conditions, and could imagine her reading up on the diseases the night before, so that she could drip-feed symptoms until the students successfully diagnosed her (or accidentally killed her off by misdiagnosis!).  In fact, I have to admit, I found this side of the story so much more interesting than the ‘sexy’ smut part of it.
The stories were entertaining enough but I didn’t feel that they were particularly memorable, and I didn’t feel that I was being told them by a great storyteller.  They both felt slightly rushed (especially the second) and missing some character development and depth of emotion.  Mrs Donaldson was just about the only person who felt in any way real, and yet I still didn’t feel that endeared to her.
Perhaps Bennett is just better at plays / screen writing?  On the back of this, I wouldn’t want to read another of his books.

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  1. sylviefan
    May 13, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Do try The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It’s a short novel and an easy read but i loved it so much i gave it to 6 people as gifts!

  2. May 13, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I couldn’t get through the beginning of this book – I was so confused. Maybe I should try again on just the first story since you say the second one is “hum-drum.”

    • May 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      The first story was actual OK – give it another bash 🙂

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