on August 13, 2011
In this rather slight volumes sit two charming stories of unexpected sexuality. The first story is 'the Greening of Mrs Donaldson' and deals with a recently widowed middle-classed woman who to earn some extra income on the side takes a job at the local hospital as a part-time demonstrator helping medical students with their diagnosis technique by feigning different physical and mental conditions and at the same time catching the eye of their professor. As she takes in a couple of students as tenants she finds herself in an interesting predicament as the rent cheques begin to dry up there is an offer to pay the arrears in kind.
The Shielding of Mrs Forbes features another unorthadox sexual arrangement. Mrs Forbes has a handsome, eligible if not air-headed son called Graham and he is betrothed to a somewhat plain but extraordinarily intelligent woman. They would be set for a happy life if it weren't for the fact that Graham was a closeted homosexual whose extra-marital sexual encounters get him under the control of a blackmailing policeman.
Both stories are about people pretending to be whom they are not and failing miserably at the task. Both stories lead to rather unexpected conclusions and the brunt of the humour is rather directed not at the named protagonists themselves but at the people around who are in on the secret.
It's a slender volume and the stories are entertaining enough but it does leave me wondering if they were of sufficient calibre to justify individual publishing. I think Alan Bennett has reached the same level as Umberto Eco where anything he says or writes from now on will be snapped up and bound which is great if you're an avid fan eager for new material but it is no guarantor of continuing or consistent quality.