First Line: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.
This little 121-page novella is a comic jewel in which Alan Bennett speculates what might happen if a very well-known person were to read a book...and actually enjoy the experience.
If Queen Elizabeth II hadn't chased her Corgis 'round the back of Windsor Castle and stumbled across the bookmobile parked outside the kitchens, none of this would've happened. But the Corgis did, and she did, and the Queen checked out a book-- just to be polite. Who'da thunk she'd actually read it and go back for another?
"Books did not defer. All readers were equal, and this took her back to the beginning of her life. As a girl, one of her greatest thrills had been on VE night, when she and her sister had slipped out of the gates and mingled unrecognized with the crowds. There was something of that, she felt, to reading. It was anonymous; it was shared; it was common. And she who had led a life apart now found that she craved it. Here in these pages and between these covers she could go unrecognized."
Turning such a world figure into a reading fiend is a stroke of comic genius as the reader rides along in the state carriage while Her Majesty learns how to wave and read at the same time or watches the servants learn to cope with a formerly punctual monarch who now wants to wait until she's finished the chapter she's reading.
The Uncommon Reader isn't all fun and games. On a deeper level, Bennett shows how the world opens up to anyone who chooses to read for both enlightenment and enjoyment. Whether we realize it or not, reading transforms us.
Read it for the humor. Read it because you're a fan of the royals. Read it because of the truths it contains. For whatever the reason...
This is a delightful satire; in turns funny, sad, and touching. Queen Elizabeth accidentally becomes a devoted reader and her interest in books leads her to become more interested in people, more compassionate, more human; all to the distress of her advisors and court.
I wasn't impressed with this novella. The Queen of England, a few years shy of 80, stumbles into mobile library while walking her dogs and checks out a book out of politeness. She then discovers that she enjoys reading. A lot. Nobody else reads as much as she does and everyone thinks her reading is a bad idea. They try to discourage her from reading but can't stop her because she is, after all, the Queen. That's pretty much it. The story isn't fleshed out much from there. Cute idea, I guess, and it's kind fun to think of the Queen as being one of us readaholics, but all in all not very interesting.
Charming book about the power of reading as well as an engaging portrait of a monarch.