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23 November 2007 @ 09:39 am
Book Review: The Uncommon Reader  
The Uncommon Reader
by Alan Bennett

One day at Buckingham Palace the Queen's corgis make such a racket that she goes to see what is going on. She finds that they are upset by the appearance of a book mobile parked near the kitchen dumpsters.

Being the polite soul that she is Elizabeth goes inside to apologize and in so doing starts on a path that will have consequences for the entire world.

She gets introduced to reading for pleasure.

Her guide to this new world is Norman, a gangly "ginger haired" dishwasher whose main criteria for selecting the books he reads is whether or not the author is gay.

She soon promotes Norman upstairs over the objections of Sir Kevin her private secretary and a battle of wills begins between Sir Kevin and the Queen over her new hobby.

This is a 120 page novella with good-sized margins so you can easily get through it in one sitting but it holds up well to reading in several smaller gulps. There is a lot of subtle humor and a great deal of philosophical reflection on reading, literature, authors, writing, and the role of the Queen.

There are a lot of great lines:

"'Am I alone,' she wrote [in her journal], 'In wanting to give Henry James a good talking-to?'"

"Authors, she soon decided, were probably best met with in the pages of their novels, and as much creatures of the reader's imagination as the characters in their books. Nor did they seem to think one had done them a kindness by reading their writings. Rather they had done one the kindness by writing them."

This is the second book with a really killer ending I finished this week and while Kim had the best ending line, this had the best ending punchline. I laughed so hard I scared the cats.