I do like Alan Bennett and I’m not averse to a little smut, so this could be a match made in heaven! This is one of Bennett’s small concise books and it contains a couple of beautifully crafted, laugh out loud stories which show his writing skills to great advantage. “The Greening of Mrs Donaldson” is the tale of a lady who simulates medical complaints for student doctors and gets paid for it. (Is this a real job? Was this another Careers lesson I snoozed through?!) She gets more than she bargained for when her student lodgers are unable to pay the rent. Their suggestion, that she watches them have sex in lieu of payment takes her life in a whole new direction. This is a deliciously furtive tale, steeped in the characteristics and foibles of the British. “The Shielding Of Mrs Forbes” is even funnier. Mrs Forbes dislikes the woman his son is marrying, a marriage taking place only for money as her son is gay. Once again, it is all very British as a thin veneer of respectability covers all the secret carryings-on. It avoids slipping into outright farce and a very enjoyable hour could be spent reading it.
Alan Bennett has put out a few little books in recent years and they have done very well for him. Being a bit of a skinflint looking for value for money in a book purchase I’m more likely to borrow from the library rather than buy (as I have also done with his “The Uncommon Reader” – review to follow). With a big readership for these little books perhaps there is no need for him to be putting out more substantial collections but I’d love to read something again from him like his superb and substantial “Untold Stories.”