The Uncommon Reader

Bennett, Alan

Book - 2008
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Uncommon Reader
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.

Publisher: New York : Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
Edition: 1st Picador ed.
ISBN: 0312427646
Characteristics: 120 p. ;,19 cm.


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Mar 15, 2015
  • forbesrachel rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

The Queen has seen and done many things. Due to her lofty position, other people are respectful yet distant towards her, and her life revolves around her duty. Then one day, she discovers a bookmobile on the palace grounds, and being polite, she checks something out. So begins a delightful tale of the Queen and her growing passion for books. Some encourage this love, while others don't understand it and even try to deter her. In fact, the majority of the populace seems to lack interest in books, thus where the conflict comes from. No matter what happens though, the voices of these authors keep calling to the Queen. She considers the reasons for this, and expounds on the importance of books; they are equality. The Queen lives in a very different world than most of us, her language and actions are constant reminders of this, but in those moments with her books, we feel a shared commonality with her. She discovers the same things in them that we do. Enjoyment, empathy, and education. By reading she comes to reflect on her own life, and finally arrives at her own conclusion. Truly a charming, thoughtful, and amusing portrayal of such a well-known personage.

Mar 14, 2015
  • Cas22 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

If you’d like an easy read that will make you laugh then this charming, whimsical novella is worth a look. It tells the story of how the Queen discovers the joy of reading books, albeit somewhat late in life. One day when she is out walking around the grounds of Buckingham Palace she stumbles across a mobile library, pops in for a look and borrows a book – and then another and another. Pretty soon she is hooked on reading and finds that as her enthusiasm for books increases, her enthusiasm for official duties decreases. This causes much consternation to all those around her, including the corgis. Despite the best efforts of everyone to sabotage this new, book-loving Queen, she is undeterred and continues her literary pursuits with vigour and determination. This is indeed a playful and amusing little gem.

Dec 05, 2014
  • JANET FLAPAN rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The Queen of England becomes an avid reader ...and what happens as a result, very droll and fun!

Jul 11, 2014

How bad could it be to have the Queen become an avid reader?

Apr 24, 2014
  • gopherguts rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Light. Witty. Well written.
Good short vacation read.
4 1/2 stars

Apr 03, 2014
  • KarenW rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

While the subject matter could be written with a preachy undertone, it is a perfect tale told unabashedly and with humor. The Queen coming across a mobile library, checks a book out, and then finds that reading is so all consuming she starts to subtly neglect her duties. She goes from reading whatever she likes, to challenging herself with more and more literary fare, she realizes she wants to write a book. And where that will lead her makes for a very surprising and delightful ending. This small book is one of the best novels I have read. Proof that small is just as worthy as more common sizes...

Feb 15, 2014
  • texasbooks rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

this was a wonderful book to read. I would like to read more books by this author. I hope you enjoy this book too if you get a chance to read it.-+

Jan 21, 2014

It’s a lovely little story about a late-in-life reader who discovers the joy of reading…and yet…I found myself arguing with the abrupt ending. It made the entire book feel oddly off putting. If the Queen were as dedicated to duty as Bennett takes pains to make her appear, would she truly entertain the thought she voiced to her council?

Jan 01, 2014
  • bibliotechnocrat rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

The queen, out walking her corgis, stumbles across a mobile library and against the odds takes up reading for pleasure. This is not approved of by her staff since it makes her go off script during public or state meetings (asking people what they've been reading, or asking the French president what he thinks of Jean Genet). The staff collude to discourage her from this unseemly behaviour.

When her secretary raises the issue, he comments that reading is a way for her majesty to pass the time though he thinks she's lost focus as a result. '"Pass the time?"said the Queen. "Books are not about passing the time. They're about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, Sir Kevin, one just wishes one had more of it"' (p. 30).

This is a charming little book; Bennett uses the Queen's development as a reader to humanize her. For book people, it's a reminder of the power of reading to change perspectives (and history).

Sep 09, 2013
  • sess430 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

As a reader it was fun to identify with the behaviors & feelings the Queen experienced while reading good books. Because the author is British, he uses their unique vocabulary, i.e. googly, chivvy and hoover ~ always amusing!! Reading caused the Queen to become more empathetic, which illustrates how good books can encourage us to extend our understanding to others.

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