Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Title: The Uncommon Reader
Author: Alan Bennett
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Picador
Published: 2008
Pages: 120

Rating: 6 out of 10

Queen Elizabeth II of England borrows a book from a traveling library she stumbles upon just to be polite. She has never read all that much, and has never read beyond what people normally do. However, this obligatorily borrowed book becomes the first of many as the Queen develops an insatiable need for reading material. As she makes her way through mysteries to thrillers to literature to classics, the Queen becomes an avid bookworm.

This was an endearing novella. The Queen, who I do not know much about, was a lovely character here. Though I can't say how realistic a picture it was, the fictional Queen Elizabeth II was a great main character to take us through her story.

I love books that are about books, though I feel that it is often hard to make them interesting, as a writer can't really write a plot just from saying "she read a book about this, and then a book about that..."
However, this one has a very nice plot structure and even pacing.

Though the Queen feels she has discovered the greatest joy in life, no one else around her seems to share her views. Their exasperation at her new hobby, and their schemes to try and get her to cease reading, were clever and funny.
The Queen's library sounded magical - I'm jealous!

The entire book was, for the most part, lightly written, but underneath it was something deeper and more serious. The Queen's eventual views and decisions on writing were an excellent way to end the book, because while we are happy for the Queen's reading, it is also somewhat true that it is perhaps not exactly fitting. She is a monarch, and she has a duty to her country, not simply to herself. It seemed, I thought, to be a contradiction that could not possibly have a satisfying ending.

In the very last paragraph, the author adds in a twist, leaving the reader to wonder just as they close the book what the Queen was about to say next. We'll never know, as Bennett leaves us to assume the ending for ourselves. It was a witty, amusing end to a very witty and amusing book.

A bit trivial and cutesy, but great light reading.