Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

This novella has a fascinating main character, who turns out to be more amusing than one might expect: the Queen of England. The book takes place in modern times, so it is the current Queen, not a historical queen of England. The story begins when the Queen discovers a bookmobile from the library on the palace grounds, there to serve some of the palace staff. She is disconcerted by its appearance, and feels that to make up for being unaware of its existence, she must borrow a book. As time goes on, she discovers she enjoys reading, and begins to dislike any of her duties that take her away from reading. Her staff becomes increasingly distressed at her seemingly erratic and daffy behavior, but they come to realize that the Queen is not losing it. She is discovering much about herself and the world, and she wants others to share in this discovery.
The book is funny, written by a British author who obviously is familiar with his subject. It is very entertaining to see how the people surrounding the Queen react to her increasingly engrossing habit - they react in ways that I definitely would not have predicted, perceiving her reading as being somehow elitist. As the Queen grows through her reading, she realizes that she perhaps wants to write. That maybe she even has an obligation to do so. The way this issue resolves itself in the end is definitely a surprise, and makes the reader themselves consider what their duty is when they read a book.

1 comment:

Rebecca Reid said...

I also enjoyed this book! Very delightful. I could relate to the Queen's developing reading obsession, although I hope I learn how to balance my time better!