Review published on October 27, 2017.
People are living longer and we appear to have a weekly ‘National Treasure’ but surely Alan Bennett must take the title unchallenged amongst writers.
This edition of his diaries/journals/notes on plays covers 2005-2015 and is as usual highly entertaining and informative. The observations on daily life are as brilliant as ever and as readers we can hear Bennett’s voice strongly from the pages.
He is never understated in his own political views and has scathing comments on the Blair years, war and poverty and yet balances this with the ordinariness of meeting so many people in his local neighbourhood (the book covers a move from the site of ‘The Lady in the Van’ after 40 years to a new house in Primrose Hill) and reviewing past friends and colleagues, now sadly seen in a coffin or at memorial services. Bennett’s own health and his life with partner Rupert reveal a changing insight into older age and the restrictions on activity.
However, be it a drive to visit a wonderful country church or a cycle down the local street to buy stamps, nothing stops Bennett delighting in observational narrative of so much we in society miss in our stressed rush or obsession with looking at screens. Ironically, when Bennett buys his first computer it is stolen in a burglary!
His contribution to our culture has given him a place in the annals of archives in Oxford University (150 boxes of ‘stuff’) yet his place alongside Shakespeare or Pepys cannot be underestimated. I hope his ‘rants’ in handwritten notes keep on keeping on! A fantastic personal read which can be kept and dipped into. Book clubs might like to read entries or compare with the audio version.
Philipa Coughlan 5/4
Keeping On Keeping On by Alan Bennett
Profile Faber 9781781256503 pbk Oct 2017
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