These two stories, packaged together in one volume, provide an interesting take on homes and possessions, and what they mean.
In The Clothes They Stood Up In, Mr. and Mrs. Ransome return from the opera to find that their lovely middle class home has been stripped bare. The burglars have even taken the light bulbs and the telephone. What does it mean to lose all your possessions? Once the Ransomes recover from their initial shock, both find it freeing, for different reasons. The story is silly on a grand scale; in an earlier post I likened it to Ionesco’s Bald Soprano, where odd people pop in and out, saying even odder things. Yet it’s also poignant and touching, especially at the end.
In The Lady in the Van, Bennett tells the story of Mrs. Shepherd, who lived in a van in his driveway for 15 years. This is not a novella; I think this story must be true. Bennett refers to himself by his own name throughout the story. He recounts how Mrs. Shepherd arrives in his upper-middle-class
I didn't like either of these stories as much as I liked The Uncommon Reader which I read a few weeks. It's interesting though that all three of these stories feature women going through transformations.
(Book 51, 2007)