Friday, 10 April 2009

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett

Read: September 2007

Oh, such a fabulous premise for a book: Walking her corgis one night the Queen stumbles upon a mobile library. Not wanting to seem rude she borrows a book, and then another. Soon she has been bitten by the bug and finds herself reading whenever she gets a moment. She becomes adept at reading in the car while waving at the public with her free hand and seems to be neglecting her once impeccably performed duties. She reads capriciously and diversely, everything from Proust to Vikram Seth and soon the seditious world of literature has her questioning her life and the political world around her. She forces books upon the obsequious Prime Minister and is disappointed that the French President cannot answer her questions on the obscure playwright and novelist Jean Genet.

This is a devilishly funny book, an absolute joy for any lover of reading who wonders what the world would be like if more people in power read for themselves. In his portrayal of the Queen, Alan Bennett has traversed a minefield skilfully and created a character who is both eminently believable and endearingly lovable. If the Queen has ever enjoyed living vicariously then she can have had few such escapades as the one she enjoys here. If it was up to me this delightful portrayal of joyous rebellion would have the Queen, and everyone else, reaching for a book in each and every spare minute of the day.

There is absolutely nothing to dislike in this humorous and well conceived novella. It is a short and enjoyable read, crammed with little anecdotes and facts which will be of interest to anyone fascinated by the world of books. Indeed, if you have already fallen for the vast world of literature then you will be rubbing your hands with glee at this celebration of reading in all its forms.

I cannot think of a better way to spend a couple of hours than devouring The Uncommon Reader. It is a book which everyone should read.

8 out of 10

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