Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
How often could it be that a book that re-imagines a current world leader is insightful, uplifting, charming and delightful?
Alan Bennett takes his character, Queen Elizabeth II, and allows her to wander out behind the palace with her corgis and discover the City of Westminster traveling library in a large parked van. She only enters the bookmobile to apologize for her dogs' barking, and she only checks out a book because it seems like the right thing to do, but as she begins to read, for pleasure, for the first time in her life, her adventure begins. Surely the Queen is quite a unique person in the modern world, and Her Majesty's worldview, experience and perspective makes her a most uncommon reader. Instead of reading, her information previously came from briefings. The staff has conscientiously filtered information so that nothing unimportant would trouble the Queen. In books, one discovers that her life has been quite sheltered, despite half a century of diplomatic travel. With the help of an intellectual kitchen boy, whom she immediately promotes to her personal page, the Queen continues to read, letting each book lead to discovery of another. She is surprised to find herself resenting the duties that she performed without hesitation for most of her life. Attending dinners and christening ships and opening museums are all now events that take her away from her reading. Both her private secretary and the prime minister are alarmed at the change in her attitude and actions since she began reading, and her staff and her family react as well. But nothing will dissuade her from her obsession with reading, and no amount of interference will restore Her Majesty to her former self. Reading will change the Queen, and it will change England as well, in this charming fable about the subversive power of reading.If you consider yourself "a reader" then treat yourself to this book. At just over 100 pages, this novella will provide a diversion from your otherwise busy schedule!
I read an ARC 118 pages.


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