Alan Bennett is back with two short stories which are not as exactly ‘smut’ as I would describe them but something perhaps a little bit saucy or different?
The first; The Greening of Mrs Donaldson, tells us about said lady, recently widowed who to make some extra pocket-money rents out a spare room to some lodgers from the local medical school. Much to the horror of her daughter. Through these students Mrs Donaldson takes on another role, that of acting various ailments, illness, diseases and demonstrating to students so they can make proper diagnostic decisions. Mrs Donaldson’s is not that fulfilled any more even when her husband was alive, which is hinted at. So when her lodgers come up with an idea to forgo paying the rent when money is tight, Mrs Donaldson agrees and it leads to a personal awakening for her every night of the week.
The Shielding of Mrs Forbes is for me a dig at all those perfect happy marriages that seems to be portrayed in a Stepford Wife kind of way. Mrs Forbes’ perfect son, Graham is marrying Betty and it is wrong on so many levels for Mrs Forbes but also for Graham. Mrs Forbes is horrified that someone called Betty should marry her son and that such a name is not suitable. But for the sake of keeping up appearances praises her wonderful son who is in banking and not just a banker (Bennett’s irony is apparent in the description of Graham) and despises her daughter in law for not being able to cope and needing the help of her father in law. But Betty is more astute than Graham or his mother give her credit for and deals with everything head on and fulfills all her needs, her father-in-laws, her husbands but nothing can fulfill Mrs Forbes who knows the truth about her son but will not face that head on. Head in the sand would be more appropriate here!
Two short stories which were a disappoint to me. Having only read The Uncommon Reader I was expecting so much more and did not get it. I think Bennett was trying to go for a shock value and the randomness of the first story with Mrs Donaldson was not shocking but actually quite a sad tale that actually made me cringe. Mrs Forbes on the other hand was a lighter tale worth a lot more with humour, I felt more of a story could have been fleshed out of it.
Not a book to start with if you have never read Bennett before but passes the time without much effort.
I received this book from Netgalley for an honest review.
Has anyone read any other Alan Bennett that you could recommend other than The Uncommon Reader, which I loved.