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.
Without a doubt this is a delightful little read! I recommend it as a wonderful break from the larger, more complex tomes one seems to become involved with. And, this I love: "You don't put your life into books. You find it there."
In my opinion, this novella didn't quite live up to the incredible reviews it has received (as a 25 year old, I don't think I quite fit the target age demographic, if that says anything). I won't deny that the book was certainly good, but slightly duller and less "spoofy" than the reviews I'd seen had led to believe.
The titular "reader" of this book is none other than Queen Elizabeth II. One day she follows her barking Pekineses into a portable library, and ends up borrowing what turns out to be a barely tolerable book out of politeness (the author had been made a Dame of the Empire , so the Queen assumed it had to be good, since she had already done the honors...). Luckily, the Queen's second book is a page turner, and thus she becomes an insatiable reader, to the dismay of the household, equerry, and the Duke. There are some amusing tidbits here: the queen perfects the art of waving from a coach while hiding a book beneath the window. She hires a homosexual kitchen boy--another patron of the portable library--to suggest new reads (some of the titles he suggests one would imagine to be quite shocking to a grandmotherly monarch). It is obvious that the queen begins to think about her duty and her people in new ways as she is exposed to literature (which says much for the value of fiction), although I imagine that using a contemporary and very much alive public figure as the central character would prevent the author from trying anything drastic, unexpected, or *gasp* the least bit unflattering. Which he doesn't. An interesting premise, some humor, a very understated (borderline yawn-provoking) style, and nothing earthshaking. Unlike the books the queen devours, I don't feel this one changed me all that much.
A must for any Anglophile! Queen Elizabeth II discovers a love of books when a mobile library is parked on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. Her new love of reading upsets the palace staff. A witty satire of the British Royalty told by one of England's leading playwrites, a Tony winner
A delightful little novella, full of delight and humor (some of it distinctly British). With Queen Elizabeth taking the central character one feels almost voyeuristic glimpsing behind the royal curtain. Wish the story were true!
So glad to have read this fun/amazing/wonderful little book! This was another one recommended by an author in her blog about books she loved that I then found on paperbackswap.com (I like to mention/recommend the site because it's brought me so many books I love!) And what I especially like about this book is that it's brought to my attention authors that I really should try to read. Just going to end with the fact that I loved the way this ended and I seriously recommend reading it if you get the chance!
I enjoyed this very short read very much. I am not a fan of the British Royals and don't keep up with their every move like others do, but I enjoyed imagining the Queen Mother shirking off responsibilities to catch up with her new found love of reading. The book is infused with that delicious, dry British humor I love so much. I think I would've given it another star had I read and known some of the references mentioned in the book. A great, short read for book lovers.
This is an extremely enjoyable book on many levels. I loved how it was 120 pages (a little, thin book) and I could easily slip into my tote or purse and pull out during moments of boredom or waiting for this or that. The only negative is that it was so short. Another 50 pages would have been nice. Like getting a kiddie size ice cream cone and wishing u had gotten the next size up...... It was so yummy you want more.