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The Uncommon Reader: A Novella Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 30, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
As the Queen expands her reading under the direction of Norman, she becomes less interested in day-to-day activities, even arriving late to the opening of Parliament because she forgot her book for the coach ride and had to have it brought to her. She no longer keeps to tried and true conversational subjects (the traffic on the road to the palace), as she converses with the public and meets honored guests, and she finds people becoming confused and tongue-tied. Dinner conversations no longer have the pleasant, easy-going atmosphere that once made invitations to the palace so memorable. When these issues continue for over a year, the Prime Minister determines to take action.
In this delightful novella, Alan Bennett (Beyond the Fringe, Talking Heads, and most recently, The History Boys), explores reading, writing, and their effects on our lives as he develops this imaginative and warmly humorous scenario.Read more ›
The Uncommon Reader: A Novella is a quirky little book about Queen Elizabeth II and her discovery of the joys of reading. Pursuing her yapping corgis through the grounds of Windsor Castle, she ends up in the library bookmobile and checks out a book to be polite. From this beginning, guided by kitchen hand-turned-equerry Norman Seakins, she is soon deep in the world of books.
This new habit of hers is unpopular with the people around her. She's becoming too "remote," they say; Alzheimer's is suggested. Her punctuality and attention to formal routine are slipping. Norman is spirited away from her staff but she keeps reading.
Author Alan Bennett packs a lot into this compact book. Through all the palace intrigue, Mad Hatter's tea parties, and hilarious references to writers old and new, the queen keeps reading. Her point of view widens exponentially and she begins making notes -- and then writing more seriously.
There's a little treasure around every corner in this wry book. The final scene is pure theater of the absurd, and the final paragraph will probably make you laugh out loud. Highly recommended.
Linda Bulger, 2008
One of the things that most pleased me about this book was the sympathetic and affectionate portrayal of Her Majesty. With so many people evidently taking it for granted that the Windsors are all a bunch of cold-hearted nitwits, Bennett's Queen is -- if admittedly somewhat limited in the breadth of her education -- thoughtful, self-aware, eager to learn, and on the whole a most memorable personality.
I think anyone who enjoys reading and appreciates the power of books will enjoy watching The Queen's royal progress in these pages. But beware: the realization she eventually reaches (about writing as well as reading) is one I believe Bennett wants to lead every reader to, common or otherwise.
This is such a perfect gem, a novella you can whiz through in an afternoon.
Mr Bennett plays with the notion of what would happen to Queen and country should Her Majesty become a serious reader. And what would she read?
He's captured her personality and voice to a T, and you can hear those regal, brittle vowels in her conversations with Prince Philip, her New Zealander private secretary Sir Kevin, and her friend and sole fellow reader, Norman, whom she whisks upstairs from the Buckingham Palace kitchens to be her 'amanuensis'.
There's much that will make you laugh, but also more wistful passages in which HM regrets, in her old age, the decades of opportunities she has wasted in meeting so many famous and important writers, without having had the faintest interest in them or their work.
As he did so skilfully in Talking Heads, Mr Bennett pokes gentle fun at his characters and their opinions, and shoots barbs at the bizarre social mores of the British class system. But the wit is sharp rather than acerbic, born of intelligence and affection rather than any desire to be cruel.
I loved it - there has to be a movie. They should get Helen Mirren to play this Queen, she'd eat it up!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A delightful small book about Queen Elizabeth's experience with the traveling lending library that comes to the palace's back kitchen door.Published 14 hours ago by N. Klauder
Excellent book; lots of good giggles. Recommended to all my London days friends.Published 5 days ago by Mary A Coughlin
I can understand the charm the plot holds for many - the idea that the Queen becomes an avid reader - but this is not Alan Bennett at his best. Read morePublished 11 days ago by Paula Fitzmaurice
LOVE this book. BUT, the version they shipped had a chinese iinset. Very confusing.Published 17 days ago by Andrew Rojecki
This is a charming, well written, compact book with a wonderful message. Alan Bennett does not disappoint.Published 29 days ago by J Wags