Friday, August 19, 2011

The Uncommon Reader

Imagine, if you will, that a bookmobile visits Buckingham Palace once a week, and on one of those visits the Queen pops in and borrows a book. This is the delightful premise of Alan Bennett's short novel "The Uncommon Reader." It is a charming and funny story of how the Queen's new-found love of reading affects those around her.

Bennett portrays the Queen as wry, intelligent, impatient, and increasingly obsessed with reading. She hides books behind the cushions in the royal carriage and figures out how to hold a book below window ledge level so she can read during processions and keep on waving. Her reactions to various books is very entertaining ('Am I alone,' she confides in her notebook, 'in wanting to give Henry James a good talking-to?' ) but even more entertaining is the discomfort of those around her as the Queen's interest in reading increases. She begins to ask visitors "What are you reading?" at royal events, thereby slowing the receiving lines and causing visitors to panic.

This is a very fun little book ( more like a long short story, really) and well with reading, especially for lovers of books about books. Pour yourself a cup of tea and indulge in this entertaining story.

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