Long Lost Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet

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The Uncommon Reader

Alan Bennett.

A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading. When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, the Queen is transformed as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.

The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Alan Bennett is one of Britain’s best-loved literary voices. With The Uncommon Reader, he brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between powerbrokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors, from the Brontë sisters to Jean Genet. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, it’s not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world – one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit that has garnered acclaim for Bennett on both sides of the Atlantic, The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them. 

Taken from book blurb

So I only recall brief snippets of this book but I remember being charmed. If only because the protagonist is the current, Queen of England. As the blurb states, the story follows the Queen as she stumbles upon a mobile library and from there develops a love of the written word. Dear old Lizzie makes her way through the classics as well as modern literature.

What stands out to me are two moments:

One: While meeting members of the public, Queen Elizabeth asks someone what they are reading. When they receive the surprised response of Harry Potter – the Queen returns a polite but disappointed response. What follows is a quick cut to the stories and indeed popular literature in general – how very basic.

Two: I remember that Queen Elizabeth’s advisers and husband start to comment about the fact that she is reading too much. The impressions I remember was that it was too dangerous for her to be seen reading too much, whether it was for her public image or because she kept asking difficult questions of the current political leaders, I cannot remember.

I remember enjoying this short little novella and really delighting at the fun way that Bennett took the literal Queen of England and made them a character. How droll 😋👑


Long Lost Reviews

Are you a blogger who keeps telling yourself you’ll get around to writing reviews, but then don’t. Do you write ‘review to come’ on Goodreads only to let them languish for years? Well then, the blog feature ‘Long Lost Reviews‘ is for you.

The aim of the blog feature is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. Let’s tackle your review backlog and dig up some long lost reviews!

If you are interested in participating check out my Long Lost Review page and grab the details!


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