Untold Stories, Paperback Book
3.5 out of 5 (4 ratings)


Here, at last, is the astonishing sequel to Alan Bennett's classic Writing Home, in a beautiful hardback edition.

Untold Stories contains significant previously unpublished work, including a poignant memoir of his family and of growing up in Leeds, together with his much celebrated diary for the years 1996-2004, and numerous other exceptional essays, reviews and comic pieces.

Bennett, as always, is both amusing and poignant, whether he's discussing his modest childhood or his work with figures such as Maggie Smith, Thora Hird and John Gielgud.

Since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s Alan Bennett has delighted audiences worldwide with his gentle humour and wry observations about life.

His many works include Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, Talking Heads, A Question of Attribution and The Madness of King George.

The History Boys opened to great acclaim at the National in 2004, and is winner of the Evening Standard Award, the South Bank Award and the Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play.

Untold Stories is published jointly with Profile Books.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Autobiography: general
  • ISBN: 9780571228317

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Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.

Review by

A selection of writings from one of England's "national treasures" Alan Bennett. I can understand how Bennett's style could be seen as irritating; it is impossible not to hear that distinctive voice reciting the words with all the attendant parodying done by impressionists. Certainly, although I love reading Alan Bennett; I found this volume rather too long and needed to take rests from it. Also it was the opening section about his mother's illness and his father which I found the most captivating and poignant. Nevertheless Bennett's eye for detail and homely sympathetic reminiscences are often spiced with sharp insights. Other writings here from his diaries and lectures I found less compelling.

Review by

Provides an intimate history of Alan Bennett's family. Perhaps the most moving sections are those describing his mother's descent into depression and madness. It is the sheer ordinariness of this dementia that makes it unnerving: all families have these kinds of tragedies. The detailed enumeration of the lives of aspirational battlers, as they would be called in Australia, is told with grace and surprising distance. He has been a dutiful son.

Review by

His humaneness and decency come through this - even when he occasionally makes snide comments or has regrets over things he has done. His day to day reporting is funny and best of all he writes beautifully.

Review by

More than any writer publishing today, Alan Bennett’s work is recognised as a facet of the man himself. Spying my copy of 'Untold Stories' a colleague comments ‘Oh, you’re reading Alan Bennett’. This is representative of many things – his penchant for understated titles, the strength of his voice and written persona, but most probably, his heavy use of personal experience.'Untold Stories' is a blend of autobiography, family memoir and writerly scrapbook, and it is in this book that Bennett explicitly references some of the murmurs and unknowns that have never really been consciously excluded from previous work, but have also never been aired publicly. In his comment about why he has never accepted an honour he admits, “I wish I could dispose of the question” and “I then generally edge [it] round to a discussion of honours in general.” Here he doesn’t. He faces the questions of his sexuality, family history and stance on the gay movement, all with a clarity, humour and humility that is facilitated by his belief that “none of it was likely to be published in my lifetime, so where was the problem?”This frankness adds touching beauty to his accounts of the illnesses and deaths in his family, his teenage angst and his encounter with cancer. As this is Alan Bennett, of course, it’s all treated with a beguiling awkwardness and a Northen normality that is partly, one thinks, as much of a character as the A. Bennetts one and two in 'The Lady in the Van'.The fragmented nature of the book means it seems almost to be intended to be read out of sync, but reading it front to back, one is irritated by the repetition of four or five Big Ideas that Bennett uses in memoir, diary, lecture and play. Although these are often funny and insightful on first reading, they really jar by the end of the book and could easily have been avoided by some more careful editing or selection. Similarly, to a regular reader of the 'London Review of Books', the large section of Bennett’s diary extracts may not be altogether fresh either, but are highly recommended if it’s the first time you’ve seen them.I don’t think there’s any harm in skipping whole sections of this book if you’re so inclined. Not interested in the lectures, fine. Read the diaries already, fine. But the sections that are really, strongly recommended are the opening and closing memoirs ‘Untold Stories’ and ‘Ups and Downs’. For anyone fairly new to Bennett, or for any dyed in the wool Alan fans, read it front to back, and savour every minute of it.

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