Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett

Title: The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett
Published: 2006, Faber and Faber
Category: General Fiction/Novella
Rating: 7/10

And now for something completely different. :D I borrowed this one from the library because it was one of Meghan's favorite reads from last year. I'm always interested in bibliophile-type books.

This is short little story about Queen Elizabeth (the current one) that starts one day when her Corgis take off running toward a bookmobile. The Queen follows along and then feels compelled to board the bookmobile and actually check out a book, just to be polite. She's never had much time for books in the past, but now all of a sudden she becomes consumed by reading. Her staff and everyone in the government don't understand at all and are greatly disturbed by it.

There are some really interesting insights about how discovering reading affects such an unusual person. Part of the allure seems to be her desire to forget her unique position: "The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them and whether one read them are not. All readers were equal, herself included." And reading about the stories of average people is enlightening for someone who has always had such a rarified existence.

Besides the pithy statements about the importance of reading, this book is really quite funny. Understated British humor. At one point the Queen's security detail confiscates the book the Queen is reading because the sniffer dogs think it's a device of some kind. It gets "exploded." I'd be upset by that too. ;)

Fun read. And this isn't important at all, but I have to mention that the book has gorgeous endpapers that look like vintage wallpaper.


Meghan said...

I love the "exploded" bit. I also like the scene where she talks about having a book in one hand and waving to the crowds with the other.

Anonymous said...

Haven't read it, though I had intended to. I listened to the version he read for Radio 4 though, and loved it. (Bit miffed the Queen didn't like Harry Potter, but she probably wouldn't.)

I love Alan Bennett.

Have you seen 'The History Boys?' - film of the play?

Marianne McA

Jennie said...

Meghan--Yeah, she holds the book below the carriage window so she can read and wave at the same time. Hee. I'd totally do that.

Marianne--I hadn't even heard of Alan Bennett before I read this book. And I haven't seen The History Boys, but I'll put it on my list of movies to rent.

I was miffed the queen didn't like HP too! Something about not being into fantasy. Whatever. ;)

Kate Diamond said...

Mwah ha ha. I read this and missed the part about this being the "current" Elizabeth. So I had a lovely time trying to imagine an Elizabethan book mobile.

Jennie said...

Kate--A book about Elizabeth I reading would be interesting. But no--this one's definitely contemporary. :)

Anonymous said...

I loved this book also. Very fun! :)