Book Review of The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader
The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
reviewed on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1


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.