Sunday, May 31, 2009

TSS - The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Good morning!  It's a cool, overcast morning here in the northeast.  The house is still quiet, my coffee is poured, and I'm ready to settle in with my laptop and compose a Sunday Salon post.  

It's been a productive week -  I finished two books and a short story.  The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt was finished well before Friday's book club meeting which, unfortunately, got cancelled at the last minute.  The plan is to discuss two books at the June meeting, but I'm a little skeptical. We'll see...

I spent Friday evening with Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader.  How is it that I missed this author and this little gem of a book?  Most commenters on my library loot post loved it, and a couple others plan to read it soon, yet it was barely on my radar until I saw several positive mentions last week.

The premise is simple.  The Queen of England happens to wander into a traveling library van as she chases her corgis outside Buckingham palace. Once inside, she feels it only polite to check out a book.  However, not being much of a reader, she has no idea what to choose. She settles on a book written by an author whose name is familiar.

'What a treat!' she hugged it unconvincingly before opening it.  'Oh.  The last time it was taken out was in 1989.'
'She's not a popular author, ma'am.'
'Why, I wonder? I made her a dame.'
Mr. Hutchings refrained from saying that this wasn't necessarily the road to the public's heart.    (page 8)

Guided by Norman, a kitchen boy, the Queen gradually begins to develop a passion for reading.  To the dismay of others (including the Prime Minister), this occurs at the expense of her official duties.
"...she was one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren't long enough for the reading she wanted to do."
(page 21)

This "dawn of sensibility" was mistaken for the onset of senility.  Efforts are made to curb the Queen's reading, as her growing self-discovery begins to steer her toward writing.

In addition to some very funny lines, there are wonderful lessons found within these 120 pages.  I can heartily recommend this book to nearly everyone I know, and will be on the lookout for more of Alan Bennett's work.  I've seen some very positive reviews for The Clothes They Stood up In!

This week I'm looking forward to reading The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.  It is the last book on my list for the Spring Reading Thing.  What will you be reading this week?

One final thought to end this Sunday Salon post... Jackie at Farm Lane Books posted a request that we add search boxes to our blogs. This sounded like a very good idea, so I immediately added one.  However,  upon testing, it does not appear to work.  Does anyone know what I did wrong?


  1. The Uncommon Reader is such a great book. Perfect for bookworms. Your search box works perfectly. Happy reading.

  2. Don't know how I missed this one but will add it to my growing list:) Have a great week.

  3. Alan Bennett's book sounds fun! I noticed about the search engine and was thinking of one for myself, will check it out when I have more time.

  4. Vasilly - Thanks. I'm not sure what was going on with the search box earlier, but it's working for me now, too.

    Gavin - I think anyone that likes to read will love The Uncommon Reader!

    Zetor - I'm Alan Bennett's newest fan and can't wait to read another of his books. I think you'd really like this one. The search box is a very useful feature, and blogger has a new search box gadget that was simple to add.

  5. Yes, your search box works just right. :D

    I've been wanting to read Uncommon Reader for a couple of years now, but our library doesn't have a copy, so I settled for The Clothes they Stood Up In, which was the only Alan Bennett available he he. We are moving on Monday, though, and I'm sure the library there is more well-stocked as they have other branches for interlibrary loans.

  6. So glad that you enjoyed Mr Bennett's book! This week I'll be finishing off The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

  7. Claire - Thanks for checking the search box. I'm not sure why it wasn't working earlier. Good luck with your move (today's the day!), I think unpacking is the hardest part. But at least everything gets organized!

    Darlene - Can't wait to hear what you think of Waters new book! I enjoyed both Fingersmith and Night Watch.

  8. I haven't read this yet, but have a copy waiting for a time when I need a break from a chunkster!

    Thank you for putting a search box on your blog! It works fine now - not sure why it didn't work earlier.

    I'm planning to read Secret Scripture soon, so I look forward to your thoughts on it.

  9. I love The Uncommon Reader! So much wisdom is packed into this tiny little novel of just 120 pages. The Queen might seem condescending in her initial interaction with the book truck man and the chef. But the whole point is that someone who lived such a privileged life all her life can't help but feel she has somehow been wasted in discovering who she is. It's a well-written book!

  10. Jackie - This would be a perfect follow-up (antidote?!) for a long book. You have a real treat ahead!

    Matt - A well-written little book with both wisdom and humor is a rare find! I'm looking forward to reading more of Bennett's work.

  11. Isn't this a great little book? Very humorous and entertaining but not at all fluff. As you say, it also contains some truths about life, as well. So glad you liked this one. I loved it when I read it.


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