Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader
Bearing in mind the title of this website, I just had to buy this charming little book. I’m glad I did.
The eponymous reader, as you may have surmised from the crown symbol on the cover, is none less than the Queen herself. The narrative starts with her, more through accident than anything else, getting her hands on a book that for once she feels obliged to actually read.
This first book starts off a new love. Whereas for the first few books she still does not quite know what to read, and therefore sticks to authors she had had some personal connection to — knighted them, for instance — soon she starts finding her own literary path, selecting literature from Jane Austen to Ian McEwan.
She starts to fill every spare moment with reading. This progresses to the point where she seems positively distracted from her public duties of handwaving and speeches: the monarch cuts such events short to the absolute minimum so she can have more time for reading. As such the whole affair bewilders her equerries, the prime minister, the royal secretary, and many others, who all have to accommodate themselves to the Queen’s new habits.
This is at the same time a marvellously entertaining novel and a glorification of the power of reading to change one’s life.