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Publisher's Summary

Maggie Smith stars in this BBC radio adaptation of Alan Bennett's highly acclaimed autobiographical stage play.

An eccentric old lady moves into a quiet street in Camden Town. There she remains, installed in her van in glorious self-sufficiency, until the council instructs her to move on. Then a kind homeowner invites her to move her van into his garden - where she stays for the next 15 years. This is the fascinating story of the genteel vagrant who found a unique place in Alan Bennett's life and writing.

But the drama is as much about the author himself as Miss Shepherd. Why did Alan Bennett let her commandeer his driveway? Was he acting out of kindness, weakness or hidden guilt over not spending enough time with his own mother? Did he always subconsciously plan to exploit Miss Shepherd for literary profit?

Thought provoking and moving, The Lady in the Van tackles profound questions about social responsibility, homelessness and mental illness with a lightness of touch characteristic of Bennett the master storyteller.

With a full cast including Adrian Scarborough, Marcia Warren and Alan Bennett, this bittersweet comic tale stars Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd.

Now a major BBC feature film starring Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings.

©2015 BBC Worldwide Ltd (P)2015 BBC Worldwide Ltd

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Maggie Smith Gets 'The Last Laugh'

This BBC radio play (based on a true story) starring the great Maggie Smith is enormously entertaining, full of laugh-out-loud moments and wonderful characterizations as well as philosophical musings and relevant social commentary. What it's NOT strong on is any real plot; it's quite simply just the tale of a genteel, unwittingly hilarious, homeless old woman who lives out of her van and imposes on reluctant playwright and homeowner Alan Bennett by living on his property for so long that she becomes, like it or not, a part of his life.

What's to love: Maggie Smith in one of the best and most original roles of her life as the old lady, delivering some of the most preposterous and side-splittingly funny lines of her career. What's not to love: Alan Bennett (clearly a talented playwright but just as clearly not a natural actor), unwisely cast as himself (and sometimes as two different and contradictory versions of himself, Alan One and Alan Two), who pretty much says all his lines in kind of a wimpy, quavery "Why me?" tone of voice. It also is dubious whether he is fully successful at drawing analogies between the old lady and his own declining mother, and analyzing his own motivations for helping the old lady. All of the supporting characters are well drawn and superbly voiced, however.

One of the funniest moments occurs at the very end of the play, when a seminal moment has occurred (not to give too much away), and the old lady delivers a great belly laugh, noting that "I came for three months...and stayed for over fifteen years!"

Now to see the new movie!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Lady in the Van

What a pleasure to hear Maggie Smith's voice and Alan Bennett's wit. I thoroughly enjoyed listening.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Hilarious, sad, and entertaining!

A short funny and somewhat morbid interaction between middle age and the elderly! Worth it.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for T M Brown
  • T M Brown
  • 01-01-16

Brilliant, a classic

Alan Bennett at his best funny, crude and meticulously observant of his subject and himself.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for John
  • John
  • 10-12-15

Fantastic

Absolutely wonderful! Maggie Smith in particular shines, delivering each line with comic perfection and each utterance provided masterfully - Alan Bennet also brilliant as himself

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Chrissierose
  • Chrissierose
  • 06-09-16

Funny and charming listen

Funny and charming listen. She reminds me of characters I have met in real life.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amanda
  • Amanda
  • 06-03-16

Brilliant

Funny, sad and brilliantly performed. Maggie Smith is fab, thoroughly recommend this book la la la filling in now for the 15 word minimum

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for little nellie kelly
  • little nellie kelly
  • 03-22-16

The Lady in the Van

I enjoyed this delightful narration. I always enjoy Maggie Smith.The time passed so quickly that I was sorry when it finished.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Mrs. Y. M. Mariess
  • Mrs. Y. M. Mariess
  • 11-18-15

Tragically wonderful

What a wonderfully written story, pathos and humour in spades.
I love the arguing that goes on in Alan's head as he has the devil on his shoulder while dealing with the devil in the van.
Can't wait for the film!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Maggie
  • Maggie
  • 04-03-17

Beautifully performed, well written

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely. The book is much better than the film. Much deeper insights.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I loved the lady herself. She had obvious mental health problems and had this happened now, the results would be so different.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The social worker trying to be helpful. I could hear it and wanted to bash her head! So patronising and realistic!

If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Been done!

Any additional comments?

Fabulous and easy to listen to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for miss michelle  chinery  obe
  • miss michelle chinery obe
  • 03-16-17

a must read read book

I love this book it's one of the best books I have read but I do love Alan Bennett book and to this is a read book

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for iris
  • iris
  • 01-27-16

Delightful and enchanting!

Alan Bennet's lady in the van is none other than Maggie Smith who gives a wonderful performance. This true story recounts a tale of a real character, an eccentric. I was brought up in Camden in the early sixties and there were several eccentrics living there from the lady who accosted every man asking if he were Mr Daly, the old man in my street who lived in a house full of newspapers piled up everywhere and the shellshock man who wandered around spitting out imaginary mud from his mouth. As he was quite elderly I suppose he really had been in the First World War. Just to say that I do not doubt the authenticity of this lady. Bravo to Alan Bennet who allowed her to stay in his garden for all those years. It will have you laughing out loud at times, disgusted and maybe even tearful.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-23-15

too brief

I was disappointed that the performance was so brief and missed a lot out from the original story

1 of 1 people found this review helpful