What would happen if the Queen became a reader of taste and discernment rather than of Dick Francis? The answer is a perfect story.
Alan Bennett's many stage and television plays and his prose collection, Writing Home, have made him one of Britain's best-loved authors. He has a huge international reputation for his plays and films which include: Habeus Corpus, Kafka's Dick, Private Function, The Madness of George III and many others a often multi-prize winning. But it is his fiction (The Clothes They Stood Up In
Briskly original and subversively funny, this novella from popular British writer Bennett (Untold Stories; Tony-winning play The History Boys) sends Queen Elizabeth II into a mobile library van in pursuit of her runaway corgis and into the reflective, observant life of an avid reader. Guided by Norman, a former kitchen boy and enthusiast of gay authors, the queen gradually loses interest in her endless succession of official duties and learns the pleasure of such a "common" activity. With "the dawn of her sensibility... mistaken for the onset of senility," plots are hatched by the prime minister and the queen's staff to dispatch Norman and discourage the queen's preoccupation with books. Ultimately, it is her own growing self-awareness that leads her away from reading and toward writing, with astonishing results. Bennett has fun with the proper behavior and protocol at the palace, and the few instances of mild coarseness seem almost scandalous. There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
For all its hilarity The Uncommon Reader has a heartfelt tone. It
offers a lament on old age, some thoughts on reticence and a
backward glance at a life wasted. * Sunday Times *
An exquisitely produced jewel of a book. * The Times *
Pure gold ... you would be hard put to find a defter satire on British philistinism ... the dialogue is priceless. * Mail on Sunday *
Light, fresh, witty and warm. * Daily Telegraph *
Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader would make a perfect stocking filler for just about anyone. -- Monica Ali * The Guardian *
British screenwriter, playwright, and novelist Bennett, author of the Tony Award-winning play The History Boys, has written a wry and unusual story about the subversive potential of reading. Bennett posits a theoretical situation in which Queen Elizabeth II becomes an avid reader, and the new ideas she thus encounters change the way she thinks and reigns. Coming upon a traveling library near Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth, who almost never reads, decides to take a look. Mostly out of politeness, she begins to borrow from the library via a kitchen page. As she begins to view reading as her "duty," a way "to find out what people are like," she is exposed to increasingly sophisticated books and ideas that criticize society. As Elizabeth loses interest in the chain of ship launches and groundbreakings that make up her reign, her staff becomes resentful, and the story ends in an unexpected way. Though the book is at times annoyingly snobbish and harping that people do not read enough, the unusual story line keeps readers engrossed. Recommended for larger public libraries and libraries where British literature is popular.-Christina Bauer, Library Journal Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.