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The Uncommon Reader: A Novella Paperback – Deckle Edge, September 30, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett (Untold Stories; Tony-winning play The History Boys) sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a common activity. With the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility, plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Any common reader will enjoy a good laugh from British playwright Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, which can be consumed in a few spare hours. But readers expecting a work as brilliant and scathing as Bennett’s plays The History Boys (2004) and The Madness of King George (1991), or even his other short stories, should expect something completely different. A political and literary satire, it pokes fun at the British monarchy while revealing the lasting power of literature. Reviews suggest that The Uncommon Reader should be enjoyed like the sort of reading it espouses: casually, but with a sensitivity to serious things as well.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This story about the Monarch's metamorphosis (:)) from non-reader to bookworm to... (no spoilers) manages to be funny, touching and insightful. I actually found myself feeling sorry for and protective of... the Queen of England? Bennett has probably done more for the Royal image than all of the PR firms in the world :) And yet he manages this without being saccharine or pretentious. The book even ends with a sudden and quirky twist. I would love to see a sequel but that is pretty unlikely.
Make no mistake though- this is quite simply a book about the love and joy of reading. If you've ever shown up late for work (or even called in sick) because you just had to finish that book or if your parents were constantly asking "What are you doing inside on such a nice day?" this book is for you.
I couldn't quite bring myself to pay over nine dollars for a kindle novella so I ordered a used paperback and I'm glad that I did. The book itself is physically charming with a sturdy, stiff cover, built in book flaps and Declan edge pages. The only disadvantage is that there are so many great lines to quote and that's easier with kindle. So... just one:
"What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."
Ah, the joy of reading.
The problem with excessive reading as any ignored spouse or best friend can tell you is that reading is a decidedly singular excursion with the annoying exception of the occasional "Listen to this..." followed by an extracontextual paragraph or so which the listener does not want to hear. The cure of course for reading to exclusion is to write. Will this be the remedy for the good Queen or will she resort to something more drastic? Her attendants and personal handlers conspire to find the solution but of course she takes the bull, as it were, by the horns and preempts them with her usual decisiveness on the burm of her 80th birthday.
A lovely fast read. Alan Bennett is a cheeky Brit with a rather large repertoire to his credit including plays, essays, novels, reviews and the odd appearance on stage. 2.50 GIBO
This novella is a fast read, and interesting enough that I can remember it after a few weeks, which is more than I can say for some books.
In a nutshell, the story is about how reading " common " authors changed the Queen of England. The current queen. The real one. I guess that's what I couldn't get past, maybe I'm too much of a realist, but it was odd reading a fictional account about public figures who are still living. The story by itself was cute, in a "what-if" kind of way, but the Queen of England is a substantial living historical figure. Reducing her to this novella persona felt very odd and trite. It was like eating carob-coated bangers and mash -- It didn't mix up very well, and as a result, in my opinion, the story lost much of its sweetness.
I know that in the UK, this book is regarded as an anti-monarchist satire, and perhaps that is exactly how Mr. Bennett indeed intended it. However, whether or not he meant for it to happen, I couldn't help feeling that the author has a secret fondness for his main character, who is the Queen herself. She comes off as far more sympathetic than not, and the reader will be irresistibly drawn into HM's private life. Mr, Bennett's fly-on-the-wall observations are hilarious and poignant.
This is a wonderful story, economically told, and I was sorry to reach the last page because I could have gone on reading it for ages. Don't miss THE UNCOMMON READER; it is a keeper.
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