Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Review - Alan Bennett's The Clothes They Stood Up In

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett
Published by: Random House
Publication Date: 2001
Format: Hardcover, 161 Pages
Challenge: Typically British
Rating: ★★★
To Buy(different edition than one reviewed)

Mr. and Mrs. Ransome have been robbed, no burgled, robbed happens to a person, burgled to a premise. Of course this couldn't have been normal thieves, because they took everything. Stove with dinner in it, to toilet paper. Nothing is left and the Ransome's do not know what to do. They spent their life accumulating stuff that never was really enjoyed or served much purpose, except for Mr. Ransome's music equipment that he used to listen to Mozart, which his wife wasn't privy to due to the large headphones he was known to sport. But while the abrupt change in their life seems to serve no purpose for Mr. Ransome, Mrs. Ransome acquires a new sense of control. Being allowed to make buying decisions, going to stores she never would have thought to enter in Notting Hill, watching day time television. Things are slowly shifting due to the cataclysmic event and then one day everything changes again and everything is as it was, but only now it doesn't seem the same.

In this brief yet odd little novella by Alan Bennett I was hoping to achieve the same sense of joy and elation I had when reading The Uncommon Reader. I did not. Such wonderful books are rare and far between and I should not have expected so much of his first book. I found the characters unlikable and unrelatable for the most part. Mrs. Ransome had some humanity, but Mr. Ransome was a bully and his new found porn obsession quite unsettling. At one point, when they located their furniture, I was hopeful. The roguish Martin, who would totally be played by Dean Lennox Kelly in the tv adaptation, brought a life and interest to the story. But his departure took the life away. I thought perhaps this brief contact would bring some life into Mrs. Ransome, but sadly it did not. It only brought about wistful remembrances of Martin on Mrs. Ransome's part, as well as my own. I would like to have read Martin's story. Instead we are left with two hollow people who have an abrupt and surprising end which, while I didn't see it coming, left me liking the novella even less. If you're looking for mild British entertainment with not much depth, try this. If you want extreme British entertainment with loads of depth, pick up Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader.


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