The author of the Tony Award winner The History Boys, Alan Bennett is one of Britains best-loved literary voices. With The Uncommon Reader, he brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between powerbrokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and
charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors, from the Brontë sisters to Jean Genet. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, its not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world - one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit that has garnered acclaim for Bennett on both sides of the Atlantic, The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration
of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them.
It is immaterial whether in real life the Queen is an avid reader or not (one is told she's not) - her perceived character is merely the foil through which Bennett can poke some heartfelt fun and take the reader on a Queen's-eye whistle-stop tour through the best and worst of English literature. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
O, The Oprah Magazine - David Gates
Bennett’s deadpan, self-deprecating humor translates perfectly.
USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer 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. The queen discovers that reading "was, among other things, a muscle and one that she had seemingly developed."
Los Angeles Times - Maud Newton The Uncommon Reader is a celebration of both reading and its counterpart, independent thinking. In this age of corporate politics, Bennett suggests, even a monarch may have greater potential for empathy with her fellow man than does the machine of democratic government.
New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
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 Christian Science Monitor - Marjorie Kehe
The staggeringly prodigious Bennett, an award-winning playwright (The History Boys), bestselling novelist, and memoirist, has fun with the writers and books the queen relishes (and doesn't). Avid readers will enjoy his playful erudition in this entertaining reminder as to why we read and write. Here's hoping the multifaceted Bennett never puts down his pen.
There are lessons packed in here, but Bennett doesn't wallop readers with them. It's a fun little book.
Though the book is at times annoyingly snobbish and harping that people do not read enough, the unusual story line keeps readers engrossed.
The Times (UK)
An exquisitely produced jewel of a book...[but] beneath the tasteful gilt-and-beige cover seethes a savagely Swiftian indignation against stupidity, Philistinism and arrogance in public places, and a passionate argument for the civilising power of art.
The Sunday Times (UK) - Lindsay Duguid
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.
The Spectator - Sam Leith
The way Bennett burlesques the world is so entirely his own that by now there should be a word to identify it. Forget making him a peer of the realm. Let’s give him his own adjective. ‘Bennettesque’ is ugly, and ‘Bennettish’, though I’ve been forced to use it for clarity, sounds altogether too querulous. The Queen is poised to inherit ‘Elizabethan’. I think 'Alan' would do.
...a masterpiece of comic brevity.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Dorothy T. Uncommon little novel This is a jolly little fairy tale (I had to keep reminding myself of that distinction) full of British humour and witty satire. I could identify with Her Majesty's obsession: When reading a good book, I frequently have put off housework and even... Read More
Rated of 5
by Cloggie Downunder uncommonly funny! The Uncommon Reader is a novella by novelist and playwright, Alan Bennett. The story starts with the Queen coming across the mobile library van parked near Buckingham Palace, where Norman, a young man from the kitchens, is choosing a book. After... Read More
Rated of 5
by Nicole I agree with the Queen you can always find time to read This was such an interesting little book to read because Bennett so deftly explores, through the Queen's newly acquired habit reading, the many ways that becoming involved in books can be absorbing and ultimately life changing. It is interesting... Read More
Rated of 5
by Velma A Reader's Fairy Tale This book has a lot of humor, intriguing ideas, and charm packed into a small package. I found it to be absolutely delightful! A reader's fairy tale with a lesson for the world. I finished it in just one day, but I will never forget it.
Rated of 5
by paula quirky little read This is a little book with a lot going on. It's a thinkers book. Look into it as you read. I loved it.
Author and actor Alan Bennett
was born in Armley in Leeds,
Yorkshire in 1934. He attended
Leeds Modern School and learned
Russian at the Joint Services
School for Linguists during his
National Service, during which
he attended Cambridge
University. After this, he
applied for a scholarship to
Oxford University, from which he
graduated with a first-class
degree in History.
In 1960, after some time
teaching and studying at Oxford,
Bennett, along with Dudley
Moore, Jonathan Miller, and
Peter Cook, achieved instant
fame by appearing at the
Edinburgh Festival in the
Bennett's first stage play, Forty
Years On, was produced in
1968. Many television,...
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