The Uncommon Reader
By Alan Bennett
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312427641, 128pp.)
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
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From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winning The History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of reading
When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.
Alan Bennett has been one of England's leading dramatists since the success of Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His work includes the Talking Heads television series, and the stage plays Forty Years On, The Lady in the Van, A Question of Attribution, and The Madness of King George III. His most recent play, The History Boys, now a major motion picture won six Tony Awards, including best play, in 2006. In the same year his memoir, Untold Stories, was a number-one bestseller in the United Kingdom.
1. Does your group meet regularly? If so, how do you think the Queen, as fountain of honor, would appraise your list of reading so far?
"Alan Bennett is one of the greatest comic writers alive, and The Uncommon Reader is Bennett at his best--touching, thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisite in its observations."--Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones's Diary
"In The Uncommon Reader, Bennett poses a delicious and very funny what-if . . . a delightful little book that unfolds into a witty meditation on the subversive pleasures of reading. . . . Mr. Bennett has written a captivating fairy tale . . . a tale that showcases its author's customary èlan and keen but humane wit."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Hilarious and stunning . . . The conceit offered here by Mr. Bennett, the beloved British author and dramatist, is that a woman of power can find and love the power in books. It is a simple equation and one that yields deep rewards. In what is a surprising and surprisingly touching novella, Mr. Bennett shows us why books matter to the queen, his "uncommon reader" and why they matter so much to the rest of us."--Carol Herman, The Washington Times
"Hilarious and pointed . . . The Uncommon Reader is a political and literary satire. But it's also a lovely lesson in the redemptive and subversive power of reading and how one book can lead to another and another and another. . . . But most of all, The Uncommon Reader is a lot of fun to read."--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today
"One of the most subtly ingratiating prose stylists of our time . . . charming enough and wise enough that you will certainly want to keep it around for rereading--unless you decided to share it with friends."--Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"Clever and entertaining . . . The Uncommon Reader is a celebration of both reading and its counterpart, independent thinking."--Maud Newton, Los Angeles Times