Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Clothes They Stood Up In by Alan Bennett

In my mad scramble to finish 100 books before December 31st, I ran across this little gem.  Clocking in at just 161 pages, it had a surprising amount to say about marriage, materialism and starting over.

The Ransomes, an upper middle class couple in England, come home from the opera one night to discover they've been robbed (or "burgled" as Mr. Ransome insists).  This was more than just an every day robbery, though.  The perpetrators left nothing behind.  Absolutely nothing.  Not only were the Ransome's valuables missing, but their furniture, their clothes, even the phones were missing and the phone cords cut at the wall.  Their home was completely devoid of everything that wasn't bolted down (so pretty much only the toilet remained).

Of course, they have insurance for this sort of thing and Mr. Ransome sets to work putting it right.  He's a solicitor, so he knows exactly what to do (and may even get himself a sweeter stereo system out of the deal). Meanwhile, Mrs. Ransome is starting to enjoy being cut free from the person her belongings made her.  She starts buying her groceries at the "Indian shop" and taking walks through her neighborhood and truly seeing it. 

Things progress from there.  Eventually, we find there is a logical explanation for their missing accoutrements and they are returned to them.  But, Mrs. Ransome is changed and realizes she can step out of her life and do something else.

I loved the idea of this.  I can see how our possessions can define us without us even meaning them to do so.  I don't consider myself particularly materialistic.  I don't constantly chase the latest technological gadget or the latest model of car (and not just because I can't afford it).  However, day in and day out I interact with what I do have in a certain way, creating habits that are hard to step out of.  If my home were "burgled," I can see the romance of starting over with a blank slate.  I like the idea that I can change.  This is a good book to remind you why you make New Year's resolutions and why you should keep them.

<I checked this book out of my library.>


  1. Great review! I've seen this book around but never seen a review of it before. The Clothes They Stood Up In sounds like a book I would enjoy.

  2. I had read The Uncommon Reader and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd try another by this author. I'm glad I did. You can probably finish it in your lunch hour, but it's got some great takeaways.

  3. I have not seen this book before, but I am going straight off to see if my library has a copy. It sounds wonderful.

  4. This does sound like an interesting read! I like the idea you pressent here. I'm going to check and see if my library has this one!

  5. I hope you like it as much as I did!