Monday, February 15, 2010

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett


The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.

This book is unalloyed delight from start to finish. It's a slight read - barely longer than a long short story - but it packs so much fun, philosophy and character observation within its pages a lesser author could have made it into a doorstop sized novel.

Bennett's main argument is about the transformative power of books. An argument that I did not need convincing of in the slightest, having lived my life through the written word since babyhood - thank you parents :o) He makes the argument far more wittily than anyone else on the planet (probably) could and although very erudite, never patronises his readers.

I wonder if HM the Queen is a reader? I'm not sure she would be - I can see her dipping into Agatha Christie and Dick Francis, possibly evena  bit of Anitas Shreve and Brookner, but not Salman Rushdie or Hanif Kureshi.


Karan said...

Another book I shall be adding to my ever expanding reading list. Thanks. :0)

Patti said...

Thanks for the book review. I think it will be added to my list of have to reads.
Patti xxx

Susan said...

I loved this book, too. The parts where the queen sneaks in reading at official functions were hilarious!