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by Alan Bennett

Pub Date: Feb. 8th, 2001
ISBN: 0-375-50306-4
Publisher: Random House

A dryly amusing self-help parable—or shaggy-dog story—from English playwright (The Madness of George III) and scriptwriter Bennett, said to be “one of the most familiar voices on BBC radio.”

Middle-aged and childless Mr. and Mrs. Ransome live quiet lives in their London apartment—until one night, coming home from the opera (Così fan tutte—Mr. Ransome adores Mozart), they find that every stitch, scrap, and piece of their belongings have been stolen, down even to the very toilet paper (Mr. Ransome, and later a policeman, wipes with a sheet of the opera program, featuring Kiri Te Kanawa). The loss is discomfiting, needless to say, necessitating changes in Mr. Ransome’s unalterable routine (he’s a solicitor) and, essentials and replacements being needed at once, sending Mrs. Ransome into lowbrow neighborhood shops—a thrift shop, an Indian grocery—that she’s never been in before. But then something happens—and Mrs. Ransome begins liking not only the shops but her new, fresh, simplified way of life: the white walls, the beanbag chairs. It’s almost too bad when everything turns up again, in a warehouse in a dreary industrial park, where it’s been reassembled to a tee and where a young couple have been living in it—cooking, making love, even recording a tape of the latter, which, back at “home,” both Ransomes listen to, each unknown to the other. Mrs. Ransome also discovers Mr. Ransome’s pathetically small stash of porn (in a bookcase behind Salmon on Torts, which she takes for a cookbook). Is there a chance for renewal, emotional and sexual, for the Ransomes? Read and see. It won’t take long.

Short, pleasant, witty, and melancholy, though—á la Garrison Keillor—perhaps a richer treat for those who know and can hear the radio voice telling it.