Sunday, September 6, 2009

"The Uncommon Reader"

By Alan Bennett
120 pages
Published September 2007 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

When The Queen goes in search of one of her Corgis, she inadvertently comes across a mobile library on the palace grounds. Feeling that she must check out a book now that she's there, she takes the advice of Norman, one of the kitchen workers.

"She had never taken much interest in reading. She read, of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby and it was in the nature of her job that she didn't have hobbies. "

The first book doesn't necessarily grab her but now she must take it back, and once she's back, she again feels compelled to check out another book. Bennett takes us along as the Queen becomes an avid reader, much to the chagrin of her entire staff and even the Prime Minister when it begins to effect her work.

"Still, though reading absorbed her, what the Queen had not expected was the degree to which it drained her of enthusiasm for anything else. "

The Queen has to sneak books in, her chief of staff keeps assisting in making them disappear, and the Prime Minister sends an aide to see to it that the Queen cease and desist immediately.

This book is charming and witty and it's easy to see why Bennett is so popular in England. He is able to skewer the whole of the system of royalty and while still making the Queen look good. He even has a go at writers, as well. When the Queen hosts a party for writers, she finds them to be quite boring. And he's able to throw in a surprise ending, just in case you weren't enjoying the book enough all ready! At 120 pages, this is novella is the first thing I have read in a very long time that ended much too soon for me.

16 comments:

  1. I really need to read this book soon-thanks for sharing your thoughts in your very well done post

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  2. Bennett is very funny, sarcastic and clever.
    Thanks for the review I'll keep an eye out for this one.

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  3. That sounds really fun! *Off to add it to my TBR list*

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  4. Is this the same Alan Bennett who wrote The History Boys and helped with Wind in the Willows? If so, I already think he's brilliant and would especially love to read this book.

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  5. This book looks very good. I love British books - I love their sense of humor!

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  6. Teri, it is the same Bennett that wrote "The History Boys."

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  7. Sounds really interesting! I'll have to check it out.

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  8. I read this novella at the suggestion of another blogger as part of my Summer Reading Challenge. It was quirky and enjoyable! Great review!!

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  9. Bennett is quickly becoming one of my guilty pleasures. I loved The Uncommon Reader as well as The Clothes They Stood Up In (even though this one, along with The History Boys, pushed against my standards of morality and decency). I am in the middle of his Writing Home which I am finding to be just as good.

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  10. Great review, Lisa! I loved this novella. Such a great, quick read. Definitely something I plan to re-read from time to time. Love it!

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  11. This was a favorite book that I read last year!! Totally enjoyed it and it made me want to be friends with the Queen!!

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  12. I loved this book! Such a quick and witty read. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  13. This sounds like such a delightful book. The idea of the queen sneaking in reading time--love it! Thanks for the great review.

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  14. This book has been on my list for what seems like forever. It's so slim, and yet I keep putting it off. I hope to get to it soon, because it sounds wonderful.

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  15. I loved this, too, and went on to The Clothes They Stood Up In. Tried that one on audio - enjoyed it very much, too, even though it was quite different in tone.

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  16. I really need to get my hands on this book!

    How are you doing? Feeling better?

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