The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

The Uncommon Reader is a short book — almost a novella — by a well-known British writer whose works I’ve never read before (although apparently he wrote the screenplay for The Madness of King George, a movie I liked a lot).  I probably never would have stumbled across it if my Aunt Bernice hadn’t read it, loved it, and given me a copy for my birthday.  It’s a wonderful, witty little book about a subject dear to my heart — reading.

The Uncommon Reader is about the Queen of England — our present Queen, Elizabeth II, in the present day.  In pursuit of a runaway corgi, the Queen discovers a mobile library van parked near the palace kitchens and checks out a book.  Gradually, she becomes a book addict — a bit of a compulsive overreader, in fact.  Her staff is distressed to find Her Majesty always with her nose in a book during official engagements, but the Queen’s new love of the written word gradually shapes and changes her as a person, and her view of her role in the country and the world.

The book is really funny, in a dry satiric way, as it pokes fun at the monarchy and the bureaucracy surrounding it, but it also has some thoughtful and insightful points to make about reading, writing, and how they can change us.  Reading this won’t take you long, and it’s well worth the time. Books generally are — as even the Queen discovers.

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2 Comments

Filed under Fiction -- general

2 responses to “The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett

  1. Steph

    I have had this on my to-read list for AGES, and am waiting very impatiently for it to come through the library. (I’m not buying new books for the moment, and I haven’t found it used.)

  2. I’ve been resisting this one for a while, but I’ve read so many good reviews that I think I’m going to relent and read it. I’ve also not read anything of Bennett’s before, although I really liked the stage version of The History Boys, which he wrote.

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