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The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
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The Uncommon Reader (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Alan Bennett

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3,9744691,287 (3.94)628
Member:overthemoon
Title:The Uncommon Reader
Authors:Alan Bennett
Info:Profile (2007), Hardcover, 124 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:None

Work details

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (2006)

Recently added byprivate library, LoisB, FatMonkey, SherrieB, Juliana.Brina
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Going in to the bookmobile to apologize for the disturbance created by one of her corgis, Queen Elizabeth II feels it would only be polite to check out a book. When she returns it, she checks out another . . . and then another. One of her pages becomes her abettor in the matter of securing books and reading them. Thus begins an amusing but also thought-provoking saga of how reading can change a person's habits and even outlook.… (more)
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    albavirtual: También sobre libros y lecturas, pero sobre todo sobre el juego de la creación literaria, y sobre como los personajes de una novela quieren influir sobre el creador de la misma ¡¡¡¡¡¡
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» See also 628 mentions

English (419)  Spanish (11)  Italian (9)  German (8)  Dutch (8)  French (5)  Danish (5)  Catalan (4)  Swedish (2)  Thingamabraian (the ideal language) (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (473)
Showing 1-5 of 419 (next | show all)
I expected this concept to be trite but was delighted to find nuggets of ingenuity here and-- well, really, the entire book (it is quite short, a novella) is a nugget of ingenuity. ( )
1 vote eaterofwords | Nov 16, 2014 |
Although I have enjoyed a lot of his screenplays (and in particular his 'An Englishman Abroad' and 'A Question of Attribution'), I haven't generally been a fan of Alan Bennett's books and stories. I seem to be in a minority of one in having found his 'The Lady in the Van' tedious, squalid and wholly lacking in humour.

This latest novella has won me over completely, though. Quite often one encounters a scenario that offers a very funny idea that the writer fails to sustain, but Bennett delivers beautifully, humorously and poignantly.

It opens with a mobile library van being parked near the remoter hinterlands of the Buckingham Palace estate. The Queen, 'The Uncommon Reader' of the title, stumbles across it, having followed one of her errant corgis. Wandering in she meets the librarian and Norman, one of her own servants, who visits it every week. Finding herself in the mobile library, the Queen decides to take a book just to be polite. Because it is close to hand the librarian give her a novel by Ivy Compton Burnett, and the Queen takes it away. She isn't particularly impressed but brings it back the following week and takes away another book. This is more engaging and the Queen comes to realise how enjoyable it is to read. She quickly becomes addicted to reading and is soon hiding books in her handbag or the royal carriage s that she can optimise her reading time.

The story is very amusing but it also conveys the value of reading thoughtfully, and the huge sense of satisfaction that comes from completing an engaging book.

Delightful! ( )
  Eyejaybee | Oct 20, 2014 |
One was most amused. ( )
1 vote BooktotheFuture | Oct 18, 2014 |
Charming novella about the Queen of England coming to serious reading late in life. I listened to it read by the author. ( )
  rglossne | Oct 11, 2014 |
Read it through in an hour. And what a delightful hour it was.
1 vote IgnatiusJRiley | Sep 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 419 (next | show all)
Bennett manages to touch on some pointed issues in this little volume: life experience versus book experience; the pleasure of reading versus the sterility of being briefed; the riddle of what is "natural" behavior when a person lives so much in the public eye. And he makes you whoop with laughter while he's at it.
 
In recounting this story of a ruler who becomes a reader, a monarch who’d rather write than reign, Mr. Bennett has written a captivating fairy tale. It’s a tale that’s as charming as the old Gregory Peck-Audrey Hepburn movie “Roman Holiday,” and as keenly observed as Stephen Frears’s award-winning movie “The Queen” — a tale that showcases its author’s customary élan and keen but humane wit.
 
The Uncommon Reader is a political and literary satire. But it's also a lovely lesson in the redemptive and subversive power of reading and how one book can lead to another and another and another.
 
This time, his odd, isolated heroine is the queen of England. The story of her budding love affair with literature blends the comic and the poignant so smoothly it can only be by Bennett. It’s not his very best work, but it distills his virtues well enough to suggest how such a distinctive style might have arisen.
 
The Uncommon Reader has the tone and morally elevating intentions of a children's book. Yet this charming fairy tale is laced with plenty of drollery for readers of more than four feet high.
 

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bennett, Alanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boda, SofiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heikki SalojärviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herzke, IngoÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pavani, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
First words
At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.
Quotations
Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting.
Had she been asked if reading had enriched her life she would have had to say yes, undoubtedly, though adding with equal certainty that it had at the same time drained her life of all purpose.
She read, of course, as one did, but liking books was something she left to other people. It was a hobby and it was in the nature of her job that she didn't have hobbies. Jogging, growing roses, chess or rock climbing, cake decoration, model aeroplanes. No. Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; preferences excluded people.
The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.
Indulged and bad-tempered though they were, the dogs were not unintelligent, so it was not surprising that in a short space of time they came to hate books as the spoilsports that they were (and always have been).
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"Tema majesteet lugeja" is the Estonian translation of "The Uncommon Reader"
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
From the back cover: When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312427646, Paperback)

From one of England's most celebrated writers, the author of the award-winning The History Boys, a funny and superbly observed novella about the Queen of England and the subversive power of reading

When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely (from J. R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, and Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large. 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When Queen Elizabeth becomes hooked on reading, neither she nor England will ever be quite the same.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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