Friday, June 26, 2009

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett

The Clothes They Stood Up In
by Alan Bennett
Audiobook, BBC WW
read by the author
2 hours 18 minutes

"The Ransomes had been burgled.  "Robbed," Mrs. Ransome said.  "Burgled," Mr. Ransome corrected.  Premises were burgled; persons were robbed.  Mr. Ransome was a solicitor by profession and thought words mattered. " 

These opening lines were featured in my Tuesday Teaser last week, but they are so memorable I had to include them again!  As the novella opens, the Ransomes  have come home to find their apartment completely cleaned out - right down to the toilet paper!  Some uproariously funny moments ensue as the investigation begins, but soon things take a more serious, even dark, turn.

Mr. and Mrs. Ransome have very different ways of coping with their losses.  Mr. Ransome, who enjoys a rigid, structured existence, is able to return to his normal routine, just slightly compromised, with relative ease.  For Mrs. Ransome, the task is not quite so simple.  Being stripped of all her possessions presents an opportunity to question both her routine and many past decisions.  She does exactly that and becomes quite a changed person in the process.  

It is always a treat when an author reads his own work, and Mr. Bennett delivers a wonderful performance.  The Clothes They Stood Up In, while not charming in the vein of The Uncommon Reader, still delivers a message that caused me to stop and think.  I'm not done reading Alan Bennett.  Perhaps The History Boys: A Play will be next, or maybe an essay collection...

My audio rating: A


  1. This book has literally just arrived at the library for me so I am off to collect it at lunchtime!

  2. I haven't read any Alan Bennett yet, but I have The Uncommon Reader here. For some reason I thought the Uncommon Reader was a departure from his normal writing style and so had never been tempted to read any of his other books - I'll rethink this now.

    I wacthed the History Boys on DVD. I thought it was really good. I've never read a play before, but I think you'll enjoy it.

  3. Mr Bennett managed to tell a lot of story in a very little book didn't he. I'm looking forward to seeing more of his work hit the shelves.

  4. I've loved a lot of his work, esp. the 'Talking Heads' stories, but I didn't like this one at all. Isn't that funny?

  5. The Uncommon Reader was my first introduction to Bennett's work. I really enjoyed it and will probably put this on the wish list.

  6. Verity - What timing! I hope you enjoy it.

    Jackie - You're in for a treat when you get to The Uncommon Reader! I'll be sure to check Netflix for the DVD after I read History Boys.

    Darlene - Bennett sure can tell a story - what a range of emotions this one calls up! I think I first heard about this book from you - thank you!!

  7. Nan - This does turn quite dark and I can see where it wouldn't appeal to everyone, especially if it's a follow-up to The Uncommon Reader. Thanks for the recommendation of Talking Heads. I don't know much of Bennett's work, so I'll look out for that one!

    Lisa - There seems to be such variety in the types of writing Bennett does - novellas, stories, plays, essays. I'll probably sample a little of each.

  8. Sounds like one to add to my list. I've had such mixed reactions to authors reading their own work, that I usually avoid author-read audios (except Neil Gaiman!). But I'll remember that Bennett does a good job.

  9. JoAnn,
    I loved that Teaser and after reading your review today I am going to have to request this one from the library. I totally adored The Uncommon Reader so I'm more than willing to read another book by Bennett. But maybe I should try to get it on audio...I would love to hear his voice reading this one to me.

  10. I am glad you enjoyed it and found it thought-provoking.

    I'm planning to read The History Boys soon too; definitely order the film as I thought it exceptionally good.

  11. Beth F - You're not the first person to say this. Maybe I've been lucky with my author as reader choices. I'm usually curious to hear what their voices sounds like.

    Staci - If you like audios, this is quick and well done. Maybe the audio is part of why it was so different from An Uncommon Reader. Just hearing those opening sentences was great!

    Paperback Reader- Before The Uncommon Reader, I had never even heard of Bennett. Now, I'm finding there is so much of his writing, it's hard to choose!

  12. I just tried to convince my book club to choose The Uncommon Reader as an upcoming group read. Now I will have to convince the library to buy a copy of The Clothes They Stood Up In so I can read it myself. :D

  13. Icedream - I hope you can convince them. It's such a good book!

  14. I found a copy on PBS and it's headed my way! :D


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