Initial Thoughts on What is The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The protagonist of the story is Queen Elizabeth II, and it chronicles her journey to becoming a serious reader, and discovering the joys and dangers of reading. The author, Alan Bennett, is a playwright, screenwriter, and entertainer best known for his work on stage and on television in Great Britain.
Related Post: Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn, Book Review
UPDATE: First Published in December 2016
What is The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett About?
One day Queen Elizabeth discovers a mobile library, which visits the gates of Buckingham Palace every Wednesday. She meets the driver/librarian, Mr Hutchings and Norman Seakins who works in the Kitchen. She borrows a book written by Ivy Compton-Burnett, someone she’d made a Dame.
The following week, the Queen borrows The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. She is enjoying the book so much that she stays in bed the next day to finish the book. The following week, the Queen is busy so she sends Norman to borrow Love in a Cold Climate, the sequel to the Pursuit of Joy, and any other books that he thinks she will enjoy. She promotes Norman to page, and he is her partner in crime when it comes to reading.
The Queen wasn’t someone who was into reading books. As the story develops, the reader sees the joy that she gets from reading a book, and in typical fashion, one book leads to another. Queen Elizabeth reads Marcel Proust, Samuel Beckett, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Henry James and many authors of the classics.
It is quite delightful, that on her trip to Canada she meets Alice Munro at an event, and she discovers that Alice has written a lot more books than she thought. The Queen loves reading so much to the exclusion of many other things. She starts arriving late for events, which is very uncharacteristic, and she is not very concerned about wearing the same outfit in a fortnight.
And as many reading enthusiasts can appreciate, the Queen wants to share her love of reading with others, and is making book recommendations to the Prime Minister. And she also wants to discuss what she has read with others. Others are starting to take note of the Queen’s obsession with reading books.
To control the amount of time that the Queen is spending on reading, her private secretary, Kevin Scatchard, sends Norman away to university. This doesn’t stop the Queen, because she is now reading more broadly, and the truth is that she was outgrowing Norman.
Right before her eyes, the Queen discovers that books are transforming her, she is more empathetic toward others – more aware of their feelings. She also realizes that she is a doer, and reading is not about doing, so she starts to read less and curbs her appetite for books. Now the Queen is placing more emphasis on writing down her thoughts.
Final Thoughts on The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is a cautionary tale to voracious readers like myself. The book reminds me that when I am reading, I should always be looking for ways that I can use the information. The most important part of the process is applying the lessons learned, which is doing. And if you are thinking it, yes it’s still okay to read for entertainment, pure pleasure, but we have to find a balance. I recommend The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett.
Alan Bennett Books
Keeping on Keeping onThe Uncommon Reader: A NovellaUntold StoriesWriting HomeThe Complete Talking HeadsThe Lady in the Van: And Other StoriesThe Clothes They Stood Up InFour StoriesThe Laying On of Hands: StoriesThe Alan Bennett CollectionSmut: StoriesThe History Boys: A PlaySix Poets: Hardy to Larkin: An Anthology