Smut

( 7 )

Overview

One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.

In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she ...

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Smut

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Overview

One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.

In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.

In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.

A master storyteller dissects a very English form of secrecy with two stories of the unexpected in otherwise apparently ordinary lives.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bennett’s charming, sneaky little work of fiction, two novellas concerning two middle-aged, middle-class British matrons, unfolds in comfortingly cozy prose, drollery that entertains and implies an inoffensive yarn, allowing the unsuspecting reader to be gobsmacked when sex rears its carnal head. In “The Greening of Mrs Donaldson,” a 50-something widow supplements her modest income by performing as a mock patient for medical students and by taking in young lodgers at home. When boarders Andy and Laura run short of funds one month, they offer to have sex in front of Mrs Donaldson in lieu of rent. Intrigued, she accepts their offer, “t which point she had (and almost heard) that slow deep pumping of the heart she had not felt since she was a girl. ‘Life,’ she thought.” When word of this reaches her employers at the hospital, the knowledge alters her persona in surprising ways. In “The Shielding of Mrs Forbes,” the title character dotes on her handsome son, Graham, a banker who disappoints her by choosing for a bride Betty Green, older, wealthy, and “not nearly as good looking” as him. A turn of events so often used to end things happily is only the beginning of this twisting tale, as Graham, who has a penchant for random sex with young men, sleeps with “Gary,” a male prostitute, the night before his wedding. Blackmail follows, and Betty teams up with her father-in-law to get to the bottom of Graham’s increasingly erratic behavior. The story comes full circle when Gary visits Mrs Forbes. Bennett (The History Boys) finds abundant droll humor in his characters without patronizing them (quite the opposite; he’s endearingly sympathetic), and captures the intimacy of a natural storyteller talking directly to the rapt reader. (Jan. 3)
From the Publisher
"Artfully entertaining…On one particular subject Bennett is incomparably brilliant: role-playing, which is the meat of both stories." —Simon Schama, Financial Times (London)

"Bennett’s humor consistently resides in the logic of the parenthetical aside, the comedy of the false appearances or misperceptions being challenged or disabused.…Mrs. Donaldson is not as unconventional as she thought herself, and no one around Mr. Forbes is where—or who—they pretend to be." —The Guardian (London)

"Tender and comic…This is Bennett’s world, where repression is never far from the sexual act….Good, old-fashioned British humor with the lightest of subversive twists."—The Independent (London)

Library Journal
Two charming novellas by British playwright, actor, and author Bennett (The Uncommon Reader) make up this slender volume. In the first, "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson," a respectable widow gets her daily dose of excitement by delivering Oscar-worthy performances to medical students, playing the roles of patients with a range of medical symptoms and conditions. This keeps her busy until her lodgers, a medical student and her boyfriend, behind on the rent, offer her payment in the form of a sexual performance, allowing her to be the voyeur. Hilarity and self-discovery ensue. In the second story, "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes," another proper but less sympathetic matron is dismayed to learn that her good-looking son is about to marry a woman she considers too plain for him. Never mind that the fiancée is rich and brainy. And never mind that her narcissistic son is actually gay. Protecting Mrs. Forbes from that knowledge becomes the focus of everyone connected to her. Hilarity and subterfuge ensue. VERDICT As when Mr. Forbes gets turned on by murmuring naughty words like arse and fanny to his prudish wife, the smut here is of the tamest variety. Bennett's stories guarantee deliciously wicked fun. Recommended for all.—Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
Kinky hijinks rattle teacups among the British bourgeoisie in the latest from Bennett (The Uncommon Reader, 2008, etc.). The book consists of two stories, "The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson" and "The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes." While no more a hottie than Margaret Thatcher, widowed, cash-strapped 55-year-old Mrs. Donaldson rents out a bedroom in her home to a young couple. Her daughter's skeptical—"The first condom in the loo…and she'll soon change her tune"—but student lodgers Laura and Andy are presentable. This proves crucial, when, behind on rent, they present Mrs. D. with barter—a presentation of themselves, feckless, doing the deed. My heavens! Even more so, when she finds herself agreeing. But things have changed since hubby ("an unobjectionable man") departed, and Mrs. D. is spreading her wings. For one thing, she's taken a job at the hospital, enacting, for doctors-in-training, roles of ill patients, and when the part demands disrobing, she discovers a curious willingness. Soon she's hooked on the in-house freak show; when L. and A. depart, she mourns its loss. She gets on with life, though, perhaps a tad wiser…and warmer. In Bennett's next tale, Betty is smitten with fiancé Graham Forbes, dashing, doting and younger, but seems in no way wise to something awkward: He's gay (he spends the night before his nuptials with a boy named Gary). The Forbes folks initially pooh-pooh the match (they suspect she's Catholic!), but Graham, who'd married for money, in time startles himself by actually liking Betty: She's sharp, funny and understanding, and, with his sweetheart, the novelty even of hetero-sex is nice. Eventually, Graham's secret comes out—as do others ("Mr. Forbes still from time to time sleeps with his daughter-in-law and leads a vigorous fantasy life on the internet…"), but the Betty/Graham union continues satisfying. While the message in these bagatelles isn't clear, it probably has to do with acceptance. Odd and oddly charming.
Nora Krug
In Smut, a devilishly charming pair of novellas, Alan Bennett introduces us to two fusty middle-aged women and sets them on a course for reinvention. But there's no mistaking his territory for Oprah's. Bennett…has something far more subversive—even obscene—in store. His matrons are not at all what they seem, and in pushing them toward revelation, he playfully shows us how misleading appearances can be.
—The Washington Post
Benedict Nightingale
…slight but always enjoyable and often hilarious…[Bennett's] writing is as meticulous as ever.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781250003164
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 940,997
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of England’s leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe. The History Boys won six Tony Awards; his most recent play is The Habit of Art.

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Smut are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Smut.

About the Book

One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.

In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.

In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.

A master storyteller dissects a very English form of secrecy with two stories of the unexpected in otherwise apparently ordinary lives.

About the Author

Alan Bennett has been one of England’s leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe. The History Boys (Faber, 2006) won six Tony Awards; his most recent play is The Habit of Art.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    Fun. Odd. Charming.

    ?

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2012

    DO NOT BUY!

    I purchased this based on a review I read in O Magazine. It sounded funny so I decided to give it a try. That was a HUGE mistake. If I could have given this zero stars I would have. I couldn't even bring myself to finish this book. I do not think this was worth $9.99 and I wish I could get my money back. It wasn't funny. I didn't find it well written. I didn't even find the story lines interesting.

    It is comprised of 2 short stories, I managed to finish the first one and I felt ashamed that I had read it. It was such a waste of time. I don't know how this story has gotten an average 3.5 star rating. I feel like there must have been a mix up in the book that I received!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted August 22, 2013

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    Posted June 11, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted May 26, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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