Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Smut by Alan Bennett


Smut: stories by Alan Bennett

Review by Lauren

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copy from library, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: One of England's finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people's public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories. In "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, " a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants. In" The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, " a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham's double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.

Review: When I picked this book up at the library, I didn't realize it wasn't one full novella. Instead, it's two different short stories that have similar themes about secrets and the inability to be completely open about one's inner desires. I wouldn't say I had one favorite story between the two, but both of them were certainly interesting.

"The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson" took a strange turn as I started reading. At first, it was mostly about Mrs. Donaldson helping student doctors "practice" in an office. Mrs. Donaldson pretends to be various people, with different illnesses, so that the students can learn how to practice dealing with patients. I really loved this idea and I have no clue if this type of job is real, but it's fascinating nonetheless. As the story continues though, Mrs. Donaldson begins a certain type of role-play in her own house, as she takes in students as tenants. While aspects of this new storyline made sense, when thinking of Mrs. Donaldson's life, it was certainly strange to imagine. The end also felt a little open-ended, which makes sense in short stories, but I would have still appreciated a little more.

The second story, "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes" was much more of a full story. I felt like I was given all the information I could have wanted in the end about this family who tries their best to keep their public life in the forefront. Even amongst each other, the Forbes family (mother, father, son, and son's wife) keep secrets and avoid talking about their private desires and actions. They aren't much of a family, for as much as they want to protect each other, none of them are entirely real or connected to one another.

Overall, this was an interesting read. I liked that it only included two stories, and while separate, still seemed connected.

21 comments:

cleopatralovesbooks said...

Alan Bennett is such a talented writer and his stories always make me smile. Thanks for highlighting this one which I hadn't heard of. :-)

Medeia Sharif said...

This looks interesting. Thanks for introducing me to this author.

Melanie said...

I don't really read short stories because I nearly always feel that they are too short but it sounds interesting!

Great review! <33

Kate Midnight Book Girl said...

This sounds like a cozy read, and I love the idea of Mrs. Donaldson's new job! I'm putting it on my library list too!

Erika Sorocco said...

I love anything revolving around secrets - this sounds interesting.

xx

Liviania said...

I've heard great things about this anthology - glad you liked it!

Brandi Kosiner said...

I haven't heard about this one but glad you enjoyed

Synchronized Reading said...

I've not heard of this one before, but I'm glad you thought both stories were interesting. Sometimes I have problems with stories that switch up, but I'm glad you still found it enjoyable :) Great review!

Janina @ Synchronized Reading

Eileen said...

The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson sounds like an unusual story but the idea's really intriguing. I'm glad the second one was a much more fuller story, and that the two stories tied together with their overarching themes. Great review, Lauren! <33

Candace said...

I'm not sure... I like a really complete story and these two short ones might not work for me. I'm glad you were able to enjoy!

Cascia Talbert said...

Sounds interesting. I sure wish I had more time to read! Enjoy your Monday!

Sophia Lin said...

For a minute I thought it said, "public speech." Whoops! Although it's sort of a true story for me. *hides away...* :p

Jasprit said...

This sounds like a really interesting book Lauren, I like how both stories share similar themes. Lovely review as always! :)

Tracy Terry said...

I hadn't expected to enjoy this book but did.

Have you read his The Uncommon Reader? If not I think you'll enjoy it.

Krysten Gautreaux said...

Sounds interesting!

Christy @ Love of Books said...

Well now, these two stories sound interesting.

Jenni said...

It's too bad the first story didn't work as well as the first story for you. I often feel like short stories are missing something and it seems like that's what happened there. Thanks for sharing!

kimbacaffeinate said...

This sounds different and it sounds like the tales made you ponder. Great review!

Andrea @The Bookish Babes said...

I can't quite figure these out, yet they do sound interesting. I'm glad you enjoyed this, Lauren. Thanks for the review!

Lauren Elizabeth said...

I like short story collections best when there is some kind of connection between them, so it's good to hear these two seemed to have that connection. Lovely review!

Sandra Danby said...

I love Alan Bennett. SD