The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van tells the true story of Alan Bennett's somewhat strained friendship with Miss Mary Shepherd, a crabby, eccentric, and unsanitary homeless woman whom Bennett befriended in the 1970s, before allowing her to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home "for three months". She ended up residing there for 15 years. As the story develops, Bennett learns Miss Shepherd's true identity: Margaret Fairchild, a gifted former pupil of pianist Alfred Cortot. She had played Chopin at The Proms, attempted to become a nun, and was committed to an institution by her brother. She escaped, had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist—for whose death she believed herself to blame—and thereafter lived in fear of arrest.