The Clothes They Stood Up In

Alan Bennett writes book that are small in size but large in life lessons. So goes The Clothes They Stood up In. While at the opera (Cosi Fan Tutte) the Ransome's apartment is burglarized. Everything is taken. EVERYTHING. From the TV to the rugs, even the toilet paper roll is taken. They come home to nothing.

This short (160 pages) story deals with the way the Ransomes react. Mrs. Ransome is normally a quiet person. She doesn't really have an opinion, having lived with her very opinionated husband. But when she realizes that she can completely start over she begins to come out of her shell. The story moves through her not very helpful contact with the police and how she decides to rebuild the apartment furnishings. She does this by shopping first at the local convenience store, which she had never been in. She then graduates to furniture stores and markets relishing in the new experiences. While Mrs. Ransome is off having new experiences, Mr. Ransome is more interested in trying to figure out how he can upgrade his stereo equipment.

Months later the Ransome's find out that their apartment has been recreated down to the smallest detail in a self storage place. After racing to the storage facility and having a surreal conversation with the manager the Ransomes are once again in possession of their belongings.  While Mr. Ransome is thrilled, Mrs Ransome starts to miss her new experiences. A bittersweet ending shows that there is personal growth available even through a horrifying experience.

At times surreal the book is a gem. Wonderfully written, the dialogue is laugh out loud funny in places. I highly recommend this book. And if you need more of Bennett's writing try The Uncommon Reader.

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