Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Sunday, July 20, 2014

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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Release Date: September 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 120
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Summary ( A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading.
When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen's transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.
With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England's best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader's life.

My Review:

I first found out about this book in a Bas Bleu catalog several years ago and checked it out from the library. For some reason, despite its small size I couldn’t get through it, I just couldn’t get into it, and returned it. By chance I found it again and decided to give it another shot. This time I couldn’t put it down. With a degree in Literature I feel like I understand the Queen’s view points on reading better now than I would have before. The Queen was new to reading and was exploring the classics much like a college student must. Every time I recognized an author or title that the Queen was reading I would get excited. At one point she quotes Dickinson’s poem “Tell the truth but tell it slant” and almost misnames the author, but catches herself. Before she did, however, I caught her mistake right off because I had read the poem not a week before for my seminar class. The plot of The Uncommon Reader was incredibly intriguing to me because I myself am a reading anglophile so the fact that the Queen of England is the title character alone had my interest. The depth Bennett gave to the Queen was extremely well done and very convincing. She is understandably wise while also being short sighted when it comes to dealing with commoners. After reading this I had a hard time fighting the temptation to search for video of the Queen sneaking out of public events with a book in hand!