The Lady In The Van by Alan Bennett
The film made from this short story/novella/essay, starring Maggie Smith, was nominated for something on the last Golden Globes broadcast so I figured now would be a good time to read it. It's not fiction; this woman actually lived in her van in the author's driveway for 15 years. I don't quite know what that looked like and wish I could find a picture. I'll have to see the film. If we parked an old, garbage filled, vehicle in our own driveway here for 15 years, the town would have something to say about it and the neighbours would be up in arms. If someone actually lived in it people would be having fits. Maybe a driveway in North America isn't quite the same thing as a driveway in England? Hopefully the movie will give me a clearer picture.
In any event, the story is just wonderful. I've been a great admirer of Alan Bennett's writing since reading "The Uncommon Reader" a couple of years ago. There's a humility, an honesty, about his writing that is very appealing. He has a light touch, yet deals with the less savoury parts of real life without shrinking. We learn a lot about Alan Bennett, the human being, in the this book. Really, how many people would do what he did? How many would put up with it as he did and lean into the situation instead of fighting it tooth and nail? I suspect there are very few indeed.
I don't think anyone could have told this story any better, not just because the situation happened to him, but because of Bennett's truly wonderful ability to bring a story to life. It seems almost serendipitous that this lady settled in that particular driveway at that particular point in time, though that's just my opinion as a reader and it's quite possible Mr. Bennett holds an entirely different view.