Smut by Alan Bennett

A few months ago my book club read and loved The Uncommon Reader, so we decided to read this new volume of two novellas. Both of the stories have the themes of characters who are keeping up appearances of normality while the smutty little secrets they think they hold are in fact known to everyone. The first, The Greening of Mrs Donaldson, tells the story of Mrs Donaldson who, recently widowed, had taken to being an actor at the medical department of the nearby university, and has taken two university students, as lodgers. The students, a couple, often have trouble paying their rent and come up with a plan of what they can 'do' for Mrs Donaldson, 'in lieu' of the rent they owe. The second, The Shielding of Mrs Forbes tells the tale of one highly dysfunctional family and a policeman, all doing highly inappropriate things. I can't say that I enjoyed this as much as I liked The Uncommon Reader. The first story has the advantage of a very likeable character who learns to go on with her bad self. The second, while it does contain some very amusing lines and the kind of wit I expect of Alan Bennett, its farce never really seems to come to a point. This is another very quick read if you're looking for something witty and hilarious, but I didn't enjoy it as much as The Uncommon Reader.